Communicating during your doctor visit

Are you afraid to ask your doctor a question? Does your doctor listen to you? Do you understand the instructions she gives?

Get the most out of your doctor visit

The days of house calls and paying for a doctor's visit with a chicken or two are gone. Today, waiting rooms are crowded and the average patient spends between 12 to 15 minutes with a physician during an average visit. To get the most from the time with your doctor, start by building a good relationship with your doctor.

Develop a relationship with your doctor

A good relationship depends on open communication and realistic expectations from both parties.

  • Inform your doctor, don't overwhelm her with unrelated details. Your doctor needs to inform you and not overwhelm you with medical jargon.
  • Be focused during the appointment. Don't digress from the illness at hand. Expect your doctor to focus on you during your appointment.
  • Respect your doctor's time. Turn off your cell phone and be on time. Your doctor should make every effort to care for you during your appointment time.
  • Be careful to slowly interrupt the doctor when she is typing into the electronic medical record on the computer so a mistake isn’t made.

Be prepared when you see your doctor

  • Write down the questions you have and write down the answers you get.
  • Make a list of the symptoms you're experiencing, don't withhold information.
  • Bring a list of all the medications--prescribed, over-the-counter, and herbal--you are taking.
  • Bring any necessary insurance papers or medical records if you are seeing a doctor for the first time.

Speak up when you visit with your doctor. Ask your physician what the problem is. Ask what, if any, tests are necessary. Ask about treatment options. Ask about specific medications prescribed. Ask what if any followup is needed. Make sure you understand all your doctor's answers and instructions.

"Repeat back to your doctor what you heard so she can agree or clarify some information," says Richard Dobyns, M.D., M.P.H., UI family medicine.

Follow your doctor's advice

Then follow your doctor's advice. Take the prescribed medication as instructed. Don't take medicine just until you feel better. Complete the prescription. Follow her orders regarding your activity level. If your condition changes, let her know.

How to choose a physician

Your needs should determine the kind of health care provider you select.

Things to consider when selecting a physician

Is the doctor trained in the areas important to you and your family?

If you are looking for a general family physician, a specialist might not be the best choice.

Is the doctor board certified?

Board certification means the doctor has successfully completed approved educational and training programs and evaluation processes in his or her specialty.

Is the doctor available to you through your health plan?

If you are changing health coverage, be sure your doctor is on the insurance's preferred provider list. If not listed, ask how this doctor can be added to the provider list.

Does the facility where you go for health care offer a full range of services, from primary care to specialty care?

Be sure this facility is on your insurance preferred provider list. If not, ask how this facility can be added to the provider list.

Last reviewed: 
June 2017

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