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Help Me Help You

Posted 11/23/2016 by UHBlog

What You Can Do to Make Your Doctor Visit Successful

Getting what you need from a doctor’s office visit takes planning. See us for advice.

Help Me Help You: What You Can Do to Make Your Doctor Visit Successful

You need to see your doctor, but do you know what things you can do to get the most from each visit?

“Office visits last around 20 minutes,” says internal medicine specialist Yan Sun, MD. “In this very brief amount of time, the patient has to get the attention and care they need. For me, that is the definition of a successful visit.”

Thinking about your visit and the reason you made the appointment in the first place is important. Among the questions to ask yourself are:

  • Are you there for a diagnosis?
  • Do you need some advice about a specific issue?
  • Is a medicine refill your main concern?
  • Are you just in need of reassurance that things are going well?

“It's also a very good idea to spend some time before the visit just thinking about the history of your problem,” Dr. Sun says. “Your doctor can actually make a good diagnosis just from the history about 50 percent of the time. I encourage all my patients to get a piece of paper and write it all down.”

According to Dr. Sun, the details and information that are useful to your physician include:

  • How long have you had this problem?
  • Does it come and go?
  • Is there any pain?
  • If you have pain, where is it? Is it sharp or dull and achy?
  • Are there any changes in skin color?
  • Is there anything else that you've noticed that has you worried?

For older people, writing down information and concerns ahead of time often takes on a greater importance. For example, you may be seeing more than one doctor and you'll need to briefly bring each doctor up-to-date on everything else going on with you medically.

After you get your list together, decide what are the one or two most important things to you. Because of time limits, you may not get to everything you want to cover. Make sure you get to those things that worry you the most, Dr. Sun recommends.

And if you don’t get through the entire list, be sure to put the extra items on a list for the next time. It could take multiple trips to address all of your issues.

“You may see your doctor every three months or as little as once a year,” says Dr. Sun. “It's a good idea to keep a running list. Then you don’t forget it (your concern or question) in the meantime.”

Many older patients find that it’s important to bring a trusted friend or family member along to the visit. They can help you answer questions and advocate for you. They can also be another set of ears and eyes in case you've forgotten some things by the time you get home.

“Before you go, always ask the doctor how best to reconnect with them between visits,” she says. “Ask how to reach them if you have questions. This can speed up the reply and avoid the frustration for both you and your doctor in multiple missed phone calls.”

Yan Sun, MD is an internal medicine specialist at University Hospitals Rockside Internal Medicine. You can request an appointment with Dr. Sun or any other doctor online.

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