When you go to a doctor, your time is very important! Here are some simple tips to help you get the most out of the time you spend with the doctor.
Serious Symptoms First
Mention the most important symptoms first. Important symptoms include chest pain, shortness of breath, passing out, abdominal pain, bleeding, slurred speech, numbness, facial drooping etc. These symptoms could be indicative of potentially life threatening illnesses such as a heart attack, blood clot, stroke or gastrointestinal bleed.
You would be surprised how many patients have told the medical assistant that they want to see me for arthritis, and after the visit, as my hand is on the doorknob, they will say "Oh by the way! While I'm here, I should probably mention that I've been having some occasional chest pain." I have had to bundle some patients off to the E.R. right away!
So it is important that you list your chief complaints with the medical assistant when she rooms you.
Give Your Doctor a List
If you have multiple problems, bring a written list and hand it to your doctor at the beginning of the visit. She can then prioritize them in order of seriousness and urgency so that she can decide which ones to address immediately and which ones to address later. Symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, nausea and vertigo are very complex with multiple possible explanations. They require a significant amount of time and expertise to diagnose and treat, and she may have to postpone discussing less urgent problems to another day.
Depending on the severity of the symptoms your doctor is usually able to address 2-4 problems in one visit. It is crucial for her to know about your complaints early in the visit so she can give each problem the full attention that it deserves.
Some people are uncomfortable discussing certain issues, such as depression, erectile dysfunction, decreased sexual interest or urinary incontinence. Please know that your doctor is very comfortable talking about sensitive or frightening issues with you, and is there to help! Don't wait until the end of the visit to mention them. These again require significant amounts of time to discuss diagnostic tests and treatment options. Do not hesitate to bring these problems up right at the beginning of the visit when the medical assistant asks for your chief complaint.
Describe your symptoms
Always describe your symptoms, not the diagnosis. For example, say "I am coughing" instead of "I have bronchitis". This allows your doctor to think about all the possible reasons for your cough instead of just treating you for bronchitis, because sometimes the cough can be due to something totally different from acute bronchitis.
We hope these suggestions help you get the most out of your visit and we look forward to caring for your health!