How to make the most out of a doctor's appointment

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Tuesday, October 30, 2018
How to make the most out of a doctor’s appointment
How to make the most out of a doctor’s appointment

Consumer Reports say getting the most out of your doctor's appointment begins before you enter the office. Organize a prioritized list of your questions ahead of time.

"It's important that patients come with their information prepared, with what they want to discuss," said Dr. Nancy Beran, an internist.

But sometimes the best of intentions get derailed.

"Doctors are distracted with entering data, getting telephone calls from other physicians and interruptions. Patients are distracted on their cellphones and with what's going in their lives," Dr. Beran said.

Internist Nancy Beran says both doctor and patient need to ignore distractions and slow down and really listen during an exam.

Additionally, Consumer Reports says for doctors, dealing with electronic health records can take time away from the patient.

A 2014 study by Northwestern University found that primary-care doctors spent about a third of the time managing records on the computer during an exam rather than looking at their patients.

That can make it harder to pick up non-verbal cues.

"If you feel like your doctor is distracted or fails to understand your problem, its fine to politely let them know. Most will actually appreciate the opportunity to slow down and focus," said Diane Umansky, Consumer Reports Health Editor

Dr. Beran agrees.

"You have to have a rapport with patients. It's important for the patient to be heard," said Dr. Beran.

Once you are satisfied that all your concerns have been addressed, repeat the action plan at the end of the appointment to make sure you are in agreement with your doctor and collect a printed copy of your patient summary usually at the reception desk.

Medical advocates also recommend, if it's appropriate, you may find it helpful to bring a friend to your appointment to be a second set of eyes and ears and to take notes for you on anything that was discussed.