An apple a day won't keep the doctor away forever. Sooner or later, you'll need
to make an appointment. There are ways to make that visit flow smoothly.
Fact is, life is moving at a fast pace for everyone, including physicians. When
Dr. Paul Griner started practicing in 1964, the average follow-up patient visit
with a primary care physician was 30 minutes; a new patient visit would go an
hour. That's no longer the case.
"The pressure is greater to see more and more patients, and there are fewer
personal physicians to go around," says Griner, a resident of New Preston,
Conn., and author of "The Power of Patient Stories: Learning Moments in
Medicine" (CreateSpace). A good doctor-patient relationship is essential to
getting the best possible care, Griner believes. Here's where to start:
_Degree of difficulty: Easy
_Plan for the visit. "Bring a list of things you want to talk about," says Dr.
Molly Cooke, a San Francisco-based internist and president of the American
College of Physicians. "We won't necessarily get through everything," she adds,
noting there may be issues your doctor wants to explore with you too. But the
two of you can then "negotiate" what will be covered during this visit.
"If the first minute is spent comparing the doctor's list to the patient's list,
many visits would have a happier outcome for both sides," she says.
"What is tough, of course, is at the end of the visit when you have your hand on
the doorknob and the patient says he or she has something to talk about," Cooke
adds. "Even worse is to leave without talking about the issue."
_Be accurate and as specific as possible in describing symptoms. "It helps the
physician narrow down what's happening," says Griner, who suggests you consider
answers to these questions: When did the symptom start? Was there a gradual or
sudden onset? What were you doing at the time? Is the symptom severe? Is there
anything I'm doing to make the symptom worse? Anything I'm doing to help ease
symptoms? Has this happened before? Are there associated symptoms beyond the
_Bring a list of all medications, including the dosage and how often you take it
_ or not. (Be honest.) Even better, bring the medicines in their packaging.
"Doctors hardly ever see the pills," says Cooke, noting medications are made by
different pharmaceutical companies and can vary in appearance. "So, if the
patient says their side effects are from the yellow pill, the doctor won't know
what it is." Include over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, supplements, etc., on
_Honesty is the best policy. "The doctor is asking personal questions not to be
nosy but because he or she is trying to identify risk factors," says Dr. Ravi
Grivois-Shah, the new physician representative on the board of directors of the
American Academy of Family Physicians.
_Be on time or early for your appointment. "It's surprising how often the
doctor's office will be able to see you earlier," says Griner. Being on time or
early gives the office team time to gather paperwork, medical history or perform
preliminary tests, he says.
_See the upside in waiting. Consider it valuable personal time to relax, says
Griner, who recommends bringing a good book. That said, the patient should be
notified if the physician is running significantly late, preferably before
arriving at the office.
_Try to gather needed test results, X-rays and other records ahead of the
appointment, or make arrangements to have them sent, Grivois-Shah says.
_Wear loose, comfortable clothing.
_Speak up if you are concerned or don't understand the doctor. "Not speaking up
is not doing them or the doctor a favor," says Cooke.
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