1. Have as many medical records as possible with you to document your medical condition, especially for a new visit or a consult. Go by the hospital, lab or other doctor’s office and get copies. This saves the doctor time and sometimes even avoids an extra official call.
2. Bring in the actual bottles of prescriptions. While lists are helpful, the bottles reveal how many are prescribed at a time, dosage, and if there are any refills left. There is no more guessing about the “little blue pill.” With so many generics the same drug can show up as many different shapes and sizes depending on the manufacturer. Now you can both be on the same page when talking about a specific medication. I am also surprised at the many errors on the bottles by the pharmacist.
3. Create a list of questions/requests before your visit. In fact, it would be ideal to tell the person making the appointment what areas you need to discuss. This is not the time to say its “personal.” We assume it is all personal in a medical office. It helps us be prepared in scheduling, equipment, and assigning the proper room. Believe it or not, we have heard most of your problems before. Of course, if it is extremely sensitive in nature than just tell the receptionist how much time you will need to discuss your personal problem.
4. Try to keep to one system of the body per visit unless a complete physical is done. Most office visits are geared to blocks of 15 minutes. Usually, this is adequate to cover most simple problems such as a rash, upper respiratory infection, and urinary infection just as examples. The longer you have had the problem or the vaguer the symptoms such as abdominal pain or dizziness expect to spend more time. Don’t hesitate to ask for more time. We would rather know ahead of time what your expectations are.
5. Ask for prescription refills, notes for work or school, and forms to fill out at the beginning of the office visit rather than at the end. Of course, a friendly reminder is always good if it has been overlooked when you leave. You can always give a list of medications needing refills to the nurse at the beginning of the visit too. Again, communication helps everyone get their needs met.
6. Be realistic in your expectations. If you start the discussion on a topic that is unrelated to the original problem on the schedule and want some answers, this leaves less time available for other problems. For example, if you are due to have a pap smear and gynecological exam but start with a headache complaint that requires a physical and full history, don’t expect all of it to be done in one visit. Always prioritize what is most important for that day. Sometimes problems become more important, symptoms severe since the original appointment or follow up was made. Just tell the nurse or doctor things have changed as soon as possible. That way we can stay on schedule and you can get the most important problem addressed.
7. Don’t leave the office without telling someone if you aren’t satisfied with your service. Most doctors and staff assume everything is going OK unless told. It is easier to fix a problem, answer a question or complaint as soon as possible while the information is still fresh. If you are uncomfortable talking or can’t stay, write a quick note. Many areas are sensitive and highly charged emotionally. It is easy to misunderstand directions, reasons for tests, or the intent of the doctor’s remarks. We really do care how you feel.
8. It is easier to process your visit on time and handle the paperwork if all of your information is correct. Tell the receptionist if you have moved, have a new telephone number, or changed medical insurance. Always bring your insurance card with you.
9. I know everyone is busy and overscheduled. The number one reason doctors are behind in the schedule is patients showing up late. True, other factors can play a role such as telephone calls and very sick patients. Just be aware that as the day progresses the problem gets magnified. If you must get in and out quickly try to book the very first or second appointment of the morning or afternoon.
10. Be flexible. Medical offices are there to serve the patients. Sometimes bad news, a tragic accident, or a serious medical condition requires more time and attention of the staff. We can’t hurry someone out who is in tears. Just be understanding that if it is you, you will get the extra time and attention needed.