5 Things To Do Right Now To Make Your Doctor Visit Better: A Physician Speaks

Investing just 2 minutes thought into what you need your doctor to know will be repaid with a better evaluation.

The average doctor visit time is now under 15 minutes, about half of which the doctor must dedicate to writing up the visit notes. That leaves you only 7 or 8 minutes to tell the doctor what is wrong, to be examined and receive your prescription.

These simple tips will make your visit more productive.

1. Identify your primary concern. These days doctors are only allowed time for one issue. In the medical profession this is called the “chief complaint”. If you have lots of symptoms pick the one that bothers you the most. The chief complaint plants a flag in the ground and acts as a starting point. Your doctor will ask about other symptoms based on the chief complaint.

2. Lists. A short list of the major illnesses you have had is very helpful. Identify just the big things requiring lengthy treatment or hospitalizations. Doctors also want to know whether your parents and siblings are still alive and if they have significant medical illnesses. If your parent is deceased age and cause of death is helpful. Of course, a current medication list is crucial – and write down whether you are taking these meds, not just if they are prescribed.

3. Be specific. Doctors want to know the following – symptom, location, duration and pattern. Using cough as an example, “I have been coughing for one week, it’s getting more frequent and I am now coughing up more sputum.” Making a few notes before your visit can be very helpful.

4. Be honest. Symptom minimization can kill you. It’s not a “bother” to the physician to hear about your symptoms yet patients can be reluctant to be open about what ails them. Be clear, concise and honest. This sword cuts both ways. Do not magnify symptoms.

5. Read your discharge instructions. Knowing what to do, what to expect and when to call back is important and gives you control over your health. This also prepares you for future visits. Knowledgable patients have better outcomes.

If you follow these simple guidelines your doctor can treat you more effectively. Encounters like this are rewarding on both sides – the patient feels heard and gets a good evaluation, the physician feels effective and is gratified to provide quality care. A win-win in health care is the best win-win of all!