How to prepare for your doctor’s appointment

So this post is part of a series of tidbits that are not directly medical, but still related to patient care that I think are helpful. If you like this type of topic and have other questions, email me!

As someone who has been a patient myself, I understand all too well the frustration of going to the doctor’s office: possibly long wait times, feeling rushed during the visit, leaving the room with a sense that you forgot to tell the doctor something super important. And as a physician I totally empathize with all this. Let me tell you a secret: every doctor would love to spend an hour sitting and chatting with their patient so we can really get to the bottom of things. But the reality is, we simply don’t have enough time in the day. Too many patients who need our help, too few doctors (especially in primary care) to take care of everyone.

So, I’d like to give some advice that I give all my patients on how to maximize your visit with your doctor. Ready? Here goes

  1. Come on time to your appointment : Unfortunately, this has to be said. If your appointment time is 8:00 am and your doctor sees patients every 20 mins, and you arrive at 8:10 am …half your appointment time is already up! And the patient who came in at 8:20 am is here on time. Most people understand this, but unfortunately we sometimes get the chronically late patients who still expect to be seen (and expect a 20 min visit when they do!). Don’t be that guy, please
  2. Bring a list of your concerns:  I can personally attest having left my GYN office more than a couple times , and an hour later recalling something I totally forgot to mention. I love to see when patients break out the notepad, where they diligently listed all their issues so that they didn’t forget to mention at the appointment. So organized, Mrs Smith!
  3. Figure out which concern is the most important to you: If you have a list of 2 or 3 (or 10) concerns, please be realistic and understand that your doctor cannot fully address everything on that list in the space of 15-2o mins. So bring up your biggest concern first. Better yet, give a brief summary of all your concerns and you and your doctor can decide which 1 or 2 is the most important to discuss on that visit, and which ones may have to wait until next visit.
  4. Bring your pill bottles: This one is relevant especially for my elderly patients who are on multiple medications. This way, I’ve discovered that patients aren’t taking their meds correctly/ran out/ are taking old meds that have been discontinued. Your doctor should be reviewing meds with you on every visit
  5. Take notes: This one is a biggie ! Studies show that people retain less than 50% of what is discussed during a doctors appointment. Especially if there is a discussion about complicated health issues or your doctor gave instructions/ advice,  it’s crucial to make sure you understood your doctor clearly, and write things down so you can refer to your notes later.
  6. Ask for clarification: Unfortunately, sometimes we doctors forget to speak in layman’s terms, and a medical jargon may slip out from time to time. If we’re talking about aortic atherosclerosis and you’re thinking “umm, what?”, don’t be afraid to speak up! It’s our job to communicate things clearly 🙂

How do YOU prepare for your doctor’s visit?

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