5 Ways to Make the Most of Your Doctor’s Visit

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Have you ever waited around at the doctor’s office, only to see them for a whirlwind 10 minutes? Or thought of a question you would have loved to ask while you’re walking back to the parking lot? Face-to-face time with the doctor has always been brief—according to the Archive of Internal Medicine, doctors spent 18 minutes with patients in 1997 and 21 minutes with patients in 2005. But don’t expect that trend to continue. Some economists expect a shortage of doctors after 2014 as more people enter the health system, which will create pressures on seeing more patients. That’s why it’s so important to prepare for your doctor visit before you even walk in the door. Here are five great ways to maximize your time with your health care provider.


1. Research before you go into the office.

The Mayo Clinic website has a wealth of reliable and current medical information that is maintained by its world-class medical staff. Visit their website and you will be able to learn about the definitions of different illnesses as well as their symptoms, causes, and treatments. Having an idea about what you think you have will help provide direction to your questions. But remember, your diagnosis may be much different than your doctor’s.
2. Have an idea about how much time you want to spend with the doctor.
Doctor’s appointment times usually vary. For example, on www.SprigHealth.com, doctor’s visits range from five minutes to an hour. When you book your appointment, make sure to budget enough time to explain your symptoms and ask questions in addition to allowing the doctor to perform their duties.
3. Write a list of your symptoms.
Writing down a list of your symptoms ahead of time gives you time to reflect about exactly what the symptoms are. It also allows you to effectively communicate your illness during a short doctor’s visit. Be sure to include all symptoms; even those you believe are not associated with your illness.
4. Develop a list of questions.
Some people will bring a long list of questions into the office, but if the doctor is in a time crunch, they may not have sufficient time to answer all of them. Prioritizing your questions the best way to ensure that you get the most important ones answered.  The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has designed an online tool that to help you prepare your list.
5. If you’re bringing a child, bring distractions!
A favorite toy, a small treat or fun book can go a long way in making a trip to the doctor’s office less scary for a child. It also frees you up to spend more time engaging with your doctor.
Do you know of other tips to help patients prepare for a doctor’s appointment? Please share in the comments section below!