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Tips for a Successful Doctor Visit

At your next doctor's appointment, get in, get the information you came for, and get out without wasting anyone's time -- including your own.

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Also let the doctor know about medications you have tried that caused side effects or didn't work.

"The patients who frustrate me the most are the ones who talk to me about their little white pill, or the triangular pill," Wurzbacher says. "They don't know what their medications are or what they're for."

4. Be honest, and don't leave out details.

"I want to know everything medical that has happened to a patient," says Permut. That includes the removal of any organs. That may not seem like something a patient could forget, but outpatient surgery makes some procedures so simple that patients do forget.

"Gallbladder surgery, for example, used to be a big deal that required a lengthy hospital stay and left you with large scars," Permut says. "Now you wind up with three or four half-inch scars and go home from the hospital the same day. You might forget to tell doctor you had your gallbladder out."

Also tell the doctor everything that you're doing that could affect your health. Are you taking laxatives? Are you on a diet? How much exercise do you get? Are you using a sleep aid? How much alcohol do you drink? "If you're using illegal drugs, I need to know that also. A visit to the physician is totally confidential," emphasizes Permut.

Are you under stress? Have you ever endured extraordinary stress?

"I want to know about any emotional stresses that may have changed people's lives -- the loss of a child or a spouse, job setbacks," Permut says. "I want to know about anything that might have had a powerful effect on the patient."

5. Don't be embarrassed -- your doctor has heard it all.

If you're planning to discuss a personal topic, one way to avoid nerves is to practice what you plan to say in advance.

"It's like public speaking, once you get it out of your mouth it's easier to say," says Wurzbacher.

"Once you've said it to your mirror a few times, it's easier to say, 'I've had this vaginal bleeding.' Rest assured," says Wurzbacher, "the doctor probably has heard everything you're going to say at least 10 times before."

6. Keep an open mind.

The patients Permut finds most troubling are those who come in with a fixed idea about the treatment they should receive.

"They'll say, 'I'm having headaches, and I want an MRI,' and they won't be happy unless you arrange that for them," Permut says. "But if you take the medical history and conclude that they're almost certainly tension headaches, an MRI would be a waste of resources. One of my colleagues used to say that it takes 5 seconds to say yes and 15 minutes to say no, but I think you have to take the time to educate patients about what the issue is and what your plans are for ordering tests down the line."

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