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Make Your Doctor Visit Matter

By on June 26, 2014

No one wants to feel rushed when visiting the doctor. What’s worse is that nowadays, the time a patient has with his doctor during an office visit is shrinking. This can be frustrating for everyone. What can make your doctor’s visit less worthwhile is if you’re ill-prepared. In other words, there’s definitely a wrong way to visit your doctor.

Below are five helpful hints on what not to do before a visit to your doc so that instead of feeling dissatisfied by the visit’s end, you’re empowered and well-prepared.

1. Not being on time: “My doc usually runs late, so I don’t really need to get there on time.”

When you’re late, you sacrifice time with your doctor. Sure, doctors can run behind, but arriving late only worsens the situation. Especially with first visits, there’s usually paperwork to be completed. Next thing you know, fifteen minutes of your visit has flown by. So be proactive, and arrive 10-15 minutes early so that you’re all set once the doctor is ready to see you.

2. Not knowing your medications: “It’s that pink jelly-bean looking pill. You know the one!”

There are thousands of pills out there, so descriptions of how they look aren’t as helpful as medication names and dosages. Granted, not knowing this information is understandable, especially if you are taking multiple medications, vitamins, and supplements. So, if you have trouble remembering what medications you take, write them down and keep a copy in your wallet. Or better yet, bring them all in with you. There’s no substitute for going through those bottles one by one with your doctor, and having an up-to-date record of what you’re taking.

3. Not knowing your family history: “We just don’t talk about that stuff in our family.”

Certain diseases run in families. Because of this, lifestyle recommendations, certain lab tests, imaging studies, or preventative procedures may be tailored to particular diseases from which your family members have suffered. So be sure to ask your blood relatives, particularly parents and siblings (or children), what their medical problems are well before your appointment.

4.  Not knowing your own medical history: “Isn’t that info already in my record, doc?”

The older we get, the more life experience we have, right? Well, that also means the more medical problems we may have, and surgeries and procedures we’ve undergone. Avoid the need to perform unnecessary or redundant testing by knowing your own medical history, or knowing how to access it. Not only may it be a savior to your wallet, but it will also avoid a lot of headache and frustration for both you and your doctor. In the age of electronic health records (EHR), getting a copy of your medical record has been made much easier.

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5. Not having your questions ready: “I had a bunch of questions, but just can’t remember them!”

We’re all forgetful. But that’s why we have notepads, smartphones, and more – to keep us organized! Having a list of questions and reviewing it with your doctor is the surest way to get your questions answered. Refer to the list immediately before the visit, and then again towards the end to be sure that your doctor has covered all of the issues that are important to you. Nothing’s worse than realizing 30 minutes into your ride home from your visit that you forgot to ask that one gnawing question that was on your mind.

When you’re prepared, both you and your doctor can spend time focusing on getting you well. With these helpful tips, you’ll be well on your way to doing just that.


Sophie M. Balzora is a gastroenterologist at the NYU School of Medicine and can be found on Twitter @SophieBalzoraMD.