7 ways to make the most of your doctor’s visit
You’ll only get as much out of your next doctor’s appointment as what you put into it. Heed this advice from Santa Monica’s Dr. Joseph Pinzone, the CEO and medical director of AMAI and assistant clinical professor of medicine at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine.
1. Prepare: Like any other meeting, preparation is key. You wouldn’t walk into a business meeting unprepared! Strong preparation ensures you’ll get the most of your spent with your doctor. That means compiling a list of your symptoms, outlining your history of present illness and preparing questions for your doctor.
2. Tell a cogent story: Weaving a clear and succinct story about your medical history will go a long way in helping your doctor help you. Think back to when your health problem cropped up. How did it unfold? What were some of the symptoms? Did you self-treat it? What was the result?
3. Ask questions: Don’t leave your doctor’s office until you have all of your questions answered. Write down some of these common questions to ask: What is my diagnosis? What is the history of what I’m facing? What is the prescribed therapy? What is that therapy going to do for me — good and bad? What are the likely outcomes of what I am facing?
4. Ask for an unrushed visit: If you’re wrapping up your doctor’s visit after 5 or 10 minutes, then something went wrong. Often, patients are sensitive about wasting their doctor’s time. Don’t be! Right at the outset, tell your doctor, “It’s important to me that we spend time together today. I’ve done my homework and have a number of things I’d like to discuss with you. An unhurried visit is very important to me.”
5. Bring a care partner: A care partner — such as a spouse, family member, friend, etc. — can be a powerful tool. When you’re engaged in the moment as a patient, it can be challenging to listen. Your care partner can be another set of eyes and ears. That person can take notes and remind you of tidbits you may have missed.
6. Emerge with a plan: Don’t leave your doctor’s office without an action plan. Understand who’s involved, what needs to get done, in what sequence and what timeframe. Make sure you, your care partner and/or your doctor writes down every step of the action plan.
7. Follow up: Be sure your doctor and staff are following through on their end of the plan, whether it’s with a phone call or follow-up visit. Don’t assume that no news is good news. Refer back to your meeting notes and double check that you and your doctor are on track.