By Matthew D. Young, MD, MBA
Medical appointments can sometimes be overwhelming, especially when you’re visiting a specialist. These doctor’s visits can present a whirlwind of new information, sometimes complicated by the anxiety and other understandable emotions that go along with concern for your health and well-being. And sometimes, no matter how much time you have with the specialist, tempus fugit (Latin for time flies)!
All of these things make it incredibly important to make the most of the time you have while face-to-face with your provider. Below are some patient strategies to maximize what you gain from your appointment with the specialist – but really, most of these apply when you are seeing any doctor, physician’s assistant or nurse practitioner.
Preparation is key
- Have a written list of questions you want to make sure are covered. Just like making an agenda for a meeting, you get so much more done when you make a plan and stick to it.
- Bring your copies of recent lab work, radiology or other results that pertain to the appointment. Electronic records have made it much easier to get results, but different hospitals or physician offices are not as seamlessly connected as you might think.
- Arrive early to fill out new patient forms, update insurance information or some new piece of paperwork that always seems to pop up. If you get there just before the appointment, the paperwork still has to get done, but it may erode into your time with the provider.
An extra set of ears
- Bring someone with you when you’re able. A family member or close friend can often remember details you may have forgotten or ask questions you didn’t think of. They can also simply serve as an important source of emotional support.
- Medical discussions can be very complex and many studies have demonstrated that what a doctor says and what a patient understands can be quite different. Your companion can help remember additional details and enhances your overall understanding.
Be an active participant
- Ask questions to make sure you understand your diagnosis, the plan being formulated and the follow-up strategy.
- Speak honestly about what you would like to do. If you have no interest in taking a medication or don’t think you can tolerate certain side effects, let your provider know. For many nonurgent medical problems there are numerous alternatives and trying to find the best treatment for each patient is part of the “art of medicine.”
As providers, the patient is truly the focus of what we do. I hope some of these strategies will be helpful at your next appointment.
Matthew D. Young, MD, MBA, is the Chief of Urology at Mission Health.