Make Every Minute Count – Getting More From Your Doctor Visits

Most people have felt rushed during a doctor’s visit. Maybe you’ve had a quick visit that ended with you feeling lost and not fully understanding your diagnosis, tests, or treatment plan. By communicating better, you can maximize what little time you have in the office. Most family physicians allow 15 minutes for each visit – make every second count!

  • Keep a written record of your questions for the doctor.
  • Be clear about your objectives for the visit and your long- and short-term goals; be sure to prioritize your problems, so the top one or two will definitely be addressed.
  • Recite back (“parrot”) what you understand the doctor to have said in your own words.
  • Don’t be afraid to speak up and ask the doctor to explain something more thoroughly.
  • Ask questions about any new prescriptions – why is the medicine being ordered, and what side effects can you expect? What time of day should you take it, and does it matter if you’ve eaten or not? Review any medications that you’re currently taking – how long will you be on it? How will you know if your medications are working and improving your health?
  • Tell your doctor about any changes to your diet (including nutritional supplements), over-the-counter medication usage, level of physical activity, or social life.
  • Understand that a well-visit is not the time to discuss your problems; these are meant to be very quick, preventative exams to keep you on track.
  • Tell your doctor the whole story, even the embarrassing parts.
  • If you’re expecting to receive complicated information during an appointment, bring a notepad to jot down notes or ask a friend to come with you to help take notes.
  • Keep your own medical records, including test results, dates of visits, current medications, and family history.
  • Tell your primary care physician about any other doctors or specialists you’ve seen since your last visit. Be sure to bring up prescribed medication or other treatment/therapy that has been ordered for you by another provider.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for a second opinion – every doctor you see should be fine with the idea of you seeing someone else.

Unfortunately, sometimes a doctor isn’t a good fit for you. It might be time to find a new provider if you’re not comfortable openly discussing your concerns, feel minimalized, or don’t trust your doctor’s judgment.