Making the most of a Doctor's visit - Tips

Tip #1: Make friends with the doctor’s staff

The doctor’s staff plays a key role in your medical care, and you need to learn how the clinic functions. It’s very helpful to build up a rapport with a special staff-member (who can be a receptionist, a nurse or an assistant). The simple rule is that if you treat the staff well, you will be treated well too! And this can prove to be very useful when you need to talk to the doctor on a priority basis. You could even get them a small ‘thank-you’ gift, to ensure that you get personalized attention. Try to find out which are the busiest days of the week, and when it is the best time to visit the doctor. Knowing the staff also helps you undestand where you should call in the case of an emergency, or when the clinic is closed.

Tip #2: Be prepared

Do your ‘homework’ thoroughly before visiting the doctor! In order to make the best use of your doctor’s time, you need to ‘prepare’ for your visit, very much like you prepare for an examination. Time spent in getting organized before you go to the doctor can help immensely! A well-organized patient not only makes efficient use of the doctor’s time but he is also likely to get better medical care, as he is helping the doctor a great deal in making an accurate diagnosis. Makes sure you have all your medical records with you, and the vital questions to which he needs answers (preferably, in writing). This will allow you and your doctor to focus on what is important to you, so that you can make the best use of the limited ‘quality time’ that they have with the doctor. Studies have shown that patients forget about 50 per cent of what the doctor tells them during a visit! Writing down the doctor’s answers will prevent such a ‘disaster’! Moreover, your doctor also stands to benefit because you need not pester him with your queries all over again!

Tip #3: Tell your doctor everything, never lie

Remember to inform your doctor about all the symptoms you have noted. List them in a chronological order, starting from the time when you first noted that something was amiss. It’s extremely useful to record the factors that make your symptoms better, and those that make them worse, since it provides very useful medical clues. Also, let your doctor know what remedies you have tried earlier, and whether they have helped or not. If you have consulted a doctor earlier or have undergone relevant tests, please share this information with your present doctor, it will help him/her plan your treatment better. It’s also helpful to prepare a short one-page summary of your medical history — this will help your doctor understand your condition better and will ensure you don’t miss out on any important details. Along with this make a list of all the medications you are taking, both prescription and non-prescription. Alternatively, you can collect all your medicines and show them to your doctor. (Read: Have a doctor’s appointment? Make the most of it with these tips)

Tip #4: Ask about your diagnosis

After you have met your doctor, it is obvious you would like to know what you are suffering from, so do not shirk from asking your doctor what he thinks is wrong with you. Surprisingly, many doctors are reluctant to give a name to a patient’s problems, so that if you do not ask specifically, you may not get an answer. So ask.

Tip #5: Tell him when you don’t agree

If you do not agree with the doctor’s diagnosis, tell him so, because if you do not agree with it, you are unlikely to follow his advise and treatment. Often, your doctor may reply he does not know the diagnosis as yet. This response does not indicate that he is an incompetent physician; it may simply mean you have a difficult problem, for which more tests are needed. It could also mean that your doctor would like to ‘wait and watch’ to see how the problem evolves, or that he may need to refer you for a second opinion. Remember that doctors do not always have all the answers. You should be aware that reaching a diagnosis can be hard and sometimes it can take a long time to find out exactly what is wrong.

Tip #6: Ask your doctor to explain your diagnosis and how it might affect you and your family

You could ask the following questions:

What is the diagnosis ? Find out the complete medical name – and what it means in plain English !
What is my prognosis (outlook for the future)?
What changes, if any, will I need to make in my daily life?
Is there a chance that someone else in my family might get the same condition?
Will I need special help at home for my condition? If so, what type of help?

Tip #7: Don’t be shy; every little detail can help solve your problem

Your doctor is definitely not a mind-reader and you must tell him everything you know, think, and feel about your problem if you want an accurate diagnosis and the best treatment plan. There is no need to be shy or embarrassed about sensitive subjects such as sexual problems or sexually transmitted diseases as far as your doctor is concerned. Rest assured that doctors have ‘seen it all’ and ‘heard it all’ – they’re not there to pass moral or ethical judgement on your conduct.

Tip #8: Ask for an explanation about your condition

Since it is your ‘head on the block,’ so to say, you are entitled to raise all relevant questions and seek satisfactory answers to them. If you cannot understand your doctor’s explanations, ask him to repeat everything in simpler language. Ask him to show you illustrations; also, ask for written material that explains the medical issues in greater detail, so that you can study this later at leisure.

You can try asking the following questions:

Please tell me more about that.
What does that mean in simple English?
Could you explain that to me again?
Could you write that down for me?
Where can I find more information about this subject?
You seem rushed.
When can I call you to talk about this in more detail?

Tip #9: Maintain a schedule

Try to schedule your next visit at the end of the consultation. If the succeeding question-answer session is something which can be managed on the telephone, then try to do so. You could save both time and money by avoiding an unnecessary follow-up visit to the doctor’s clinic.

Tip #10: Take a friend along

Try to find a friend or relative to accompany you for the consultation, as his/ her presence can be very useful. He/she can help reduce your anxiety, give you courage to ask the relevant questions, and also help you to interpret the doctor’s statements. When you are with the doctor, his only focus of interest should be you, and it’s his job to provide answers. Remember, the only stupid question is the one you didn’t ask. Be courteous but assertive while asking questions and obtaining information, but don’t turn aggressive or antagonistic. Listen carefully to what your doctor says, and in case of doubt and ambiguity, do not leave till these have been dispelled. Remember, the word doctor is derived from the Latin root docere, which means ‘to teach’. Therefore, look for a doctor who is willing to share his knowledge with you!

Tip #11: Treat your doctor with respect

What happens if you and your doctor differ about a treatment option? Let me point out that there’s a right way of approaching your doctor and a wrong way. It’s simply a matter of mutual respect; you wouldn’t want your doctor to assume the worst about you, so, don’t assume the worst about him! Often, if you can put across your feelings and apprehensions in the right way, you can get your doctor to help you. Explain your needs to the physician in a polite way, without any belligerence or hostility. Remember that you are both on the same side – yours!

Tip #12: The amount of time you wait does not equal a proficient doctor, go to one who can manage his time efficiently

The most common complaint of patients is that they are made to wait for ages before the doctor can see them! It is only because patients put up with such a situation that doctors get away with this unpardonable behavior. After all, no doctor would remain very busy if all his patients decide to refuse to wait for him! Some patients seem to believe that the longer they have to wait outside the doctor’s clinic, the better he must be, since he has so many patients clamoring for his attention. This is simply not true! No matter how hard-pressed a doctor may be, he can always space out his appointments, so that you never have to wait for more than an hour to see him. While an occasional delay is unavoidable (since a medical emergency could require your doctor’s immediate attention), if you are made to wait for an eternity each time, something is seriously wrong with the doctor’s attitude towards patients.

Tip #13: Don’t give away your original test reports

Make sure you carry photocopies of all your medical records and tests. You can give them to the doctor for his files, if needed – but keep your originals with you – they are your property! Also, make sure that you have clearly understood the contents of your medical records so that you can explain the details to another doctor if needed.

Tip #14: Don’t irritate the doctor or his staff, maintain a sense of decorum

Sometimes patients tend to behave in an unsavoury manner. What may seem like a tiny misstep on your part could be highly irritating to someone else. So, if you want the best possible treatment avoid the following faux pas.

For instance, doctors dislike patients who:

Expect to be treated on a priority basis.
Are always late.
Waste time needlessly.
Ask the same questions endlessly.
Think they know all the answers.
Do not value the doctor’s privacy or personal time.
Do not follow instructions.
Go ‘doctor shopping’ i.e., change doctors all the time.
Don’t pay their fees on time. It’s always helpful to put yourself in the other person’s shoes; i.e., to see things from your doctor’s point of view!
Tip #15: Be an ideal patient, follow these guidelines:

The ideal patient would be one who:

Comes to appointments on time, or is thoughtful enough to phone to cancel them.
Tries to explain exactly what’s bothering him; i.e., he can express his anxieties and apprehensions clearly.
Answers questions honestly.
Volunteers any important information that the doctor may not specifically ask about, including family history.
Lets the doctor know if cannot follow his directions and specifies the reasons why.
Takes medications as directed, strictly adhering to the dose schedule.
Expresses his dissatisfaction in a courteous manner more  

Thanks Anoop ji more  
Very good write up.But unfortunately in India,Doctors very seldom give adequate time to listen to a patients problems unlike in the west. They straight away prescribe test(some of them unnecessary) despite the fact that the patient has got reports done earlier(not old).We all know the reason for this.Next they charge you for consultation when you visit again to show the test results. Today medical profession has gone down to a very low level.It has become business and all ethics are forgotten(exceptions are always there). more  
excellent ground work Shikhaji....you have nearly done the impossible...you haver set the rules of the transactions between 'patient' and 'medicator/healer'....just beautiful...it was something i took as mandatory all along, though in practice it is nowhere to be seen...this awareness of patient's rights can go a very long way in healing...i am with you in all your endeavors..i can prepare write-ups and i can give talks on this subject
...or we can gather interested people who appreciate this more  
May I add that if possible Google and understand your problem, prognosis and diagnosis. This will give you a good knowledge to discuss your ailment or disease in a professional manner. I may mention that very few Doctors have time to Google and update their knowledge. They remain engrossed in their routine. Very few Doctors will want to listen to your point of view. So you have to be rather tactful in your approach. more  
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