You have just finished seeing the doctor as you walk out of the building and suddenly remember something that you had intended to ask during the appointment. But now it’s too late; the doctor has moved on to their next patient. Your questions will have to wait.
If this scenario sounds familiar, you are not alone. It happens to even the most organized and mindful among us. Unless you have a private doctor who gives you their undivided attention for unlimited amounts of time, you will need to arrive at the doctor’s office fully prepared to communicate all of your concerns.
A large study published in 2013 in the Journal of Internal Medicine reported that Medical interns in 2 separate medical training programs, spent an average of less than 10 minutes with each patient. The rest of their time was spent on tasks such as reading and updating medical charts, consulting with other medical staff, and various duties not directly involving the patient.
Of course most Americans don’t need an academic study to tell us this. You’ve probably noticed that many doctors increasingly have one eye on you and the other on a computer screen. The actual time with the doctor can often feel rushed and inadequate. At best, you may leave feeling unsatisfied with the attention you received. At worst, some important health concern may be overlooked.
Medical workers on the front lines of patient care generally chose their profession out of a sincere desire to help people. The amount of patients they see each day is ever growing. Many of their patients are often stressed and frightened due to medical issues. Plus the medical staff is always struggling to keep up with a mountain of paperwork. Medical workers rely on you to communicate your needs to them clearly so they can help you begin healing.
There is one simple step you can take to ensure that the care and attention you receive puts you on the path to feeling better. Make a detailed list and bring it to the doctor’s office!
Once you know that visiting a doctor is imminent, write a detailed list of all your symptoms and concerns. If you’re too sick to do this then ask a family member or friend to help you.
Be concise! What are the symptoms? How long have you had them? Are the symptoms getting better or worse? What questions do you want to ask the doctor? It is important to be as clear as possible to ensure you are putting the doctor in the best position to help you.
Type your list whenever possible. Your doctor may ask to see the list and read it themselves. During a recent appointment, I left the room with the nurse to go to the lab before the doctor had arrived. I returned to find the doctor reading the list that I had unintentionally left in the exam room.
1. Bring at least two copies of your list. One for you and one for the doctor
2. Also bring a pen to make notes or cross items off as they are addressed.
3. Be confident! You are helping the medical team by eliminating a lot of guesswork.
Remember that your doctor’s job is to help you feel better. A few minutes before they see you, they are thinking about another patient. A few minutes after they leave you, they will be thinking about yet another patient. By coming prepared with an easy to read list of your concerns, your chances improve that when they are with you, they will be thinking about you!