Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Fitness & Exercise

Font Size

Are You Too Embarrassed to Ask Your Doctor?

Experts share tips for patients who are afraid to tell doctors what's really on their minds.

WebMD Feature

Sometimes doctors call it the "doorknob moment." The physician's hand is reaching for the doorknob to leave the examining room and the patient suddenly gathers the courage to blurt out the real reason for the visit.

"Uh, one more thing. I think I saw some blood in the toilet. Could that be bad?"

Or: "The other night walking the dog, I felt this funny sort of stabbing feeling in my chest, but it went away."

Or: "My head started hurting on the right when my husband kind of pushed me against the wall. Could that have anything to do with it?"

"This definitely happens," James Hubbard, MD, MPH, tells WebMD. Hubbard is editor of Family Doctor: The Magazine That Makes Housecalls and a doctor in private practice for 24 years. "Patients know the doctor is in a hurry and think it's 'now or never.'"

The days of Dr. Welby and the long, personal chat with the doctor are definitely over. A 2001 study done at Rutgers University and published in The New England Journal of Medicine showed that the average visit is 17 minutes, which includes the physical exam.

Another study showed that the doctor may only listen 20 seconds before interrupting you and trying to move your explanation along.

Hubbard feels the patient has as much responsibility as the doctor for organizing the visit and making every minute count. "Asking an important question just as the doctor is leaving usually is not the best time," he says.

"But if you do this," he adds, "you have the right to ask the doctor to come back in and take a minute or two to answer."

Often, this may result in the doctor asking you to make another appointment. If you came for a headache and suddenly say your chest has been hurting, too, this could result in having to start the exam over, Hubbard says. "This will probably mean another appointment and different tests."

Healthy Living Tools

Ditch Those Inches

Set goals, tally calorie intake, track workouts and more, all via WebMD’s free Food & Fitness Planner.

Get Started

Today on WebMD

Wet feet on shower floor tile
Slideshow
Flat Abs
Slideshow
 
Build a Better Butt Slideshow
Slideshow
woman using ice pack
Quiz
 

man exercising
Article
7 most effective exercises
Interactive
 
Man looking at watch before workout
Slideshow
Overweight man sitting on park bench
Video
 
6-Week Challenges
Want to know more?
Chill Out and Charge Up Challenge – How to help your tribe de-stress and energize.
Spark Change Challenge - Ready for a healthy change? Get some major motivation.
I have read and agreed to WebMD's Privacy Policy.
Enter cell phone number
- -
Entering your cell phone number and pressing submit indicates you agree to receive text messages from WebMD related to this challenge. WebMD is utilizing a 3rd party vendor, CellTrust, to provide the messages. You can opt out at any time.
Standard text rates apply

pilates instructor
Slideshow
jogger running among flowering plants
Video
 
Teen girl jogging
Article
Taylor Lautner
Article