Doctors spend on average about 15 to 20 minutes with each patient they see for routine exams. (Of course, there is often time out of the exam room that is spent reviewing the chart and records.) The experience can be both confusing and frustrating when communication on one or both sides is lacking, particularly if you're presented with new information to process or new instructions to follow.
While a visit to the clinic can be intimidating for anyone, you can lessen the stress and worry associated with doctor's appointments by taking steps to be sure that you're provided with all the information you need at the appointment. There are also ways to improve the quality of care by helping the doctor develop the best understanding possible of your symptoms and condition.
Just as the tread on your tires wears away over time, the cartilage that cushions your joints can wear away, too, in a condition known as osteoarthritis. And without enough cushioning, the bones of a joint will hurt when they rub against each other.
Frayed cartilage can't heal or grow back. "There's no way to reverse the arthritis once it has started," says Michaela M. Schneiderbauer, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. But there are ways to reduce the...
Before the appointment, write down a list of things you need to tell the doctor. Note any concerns or questions you may have. Also write down the names and dosages of any prescription, over-the-counter medications, or supplements you are taking. It is very important to take this list with you to the appointment -- don't count on remembering every single item. Before you leave the office, go over the list to be sure you've covered everything. This simple step benefits both you and your doctor by keeping the discussion focused and ensuring that all concerns are addressed.
Don't hesitate to use the words "I don't understand." Doctors are only human and may not always know when they haven't explained something well or in terms you can understand. Never feel embarrassed or shy about asking for clarification about something your doctor says. When in doubt, repeat back what the doctor has told you and ask if you've got it right. You can also ask if he or she recommends any specific reading materials about your condition.
If your doctor asks questions that sound embarrassing or overly personal, remember that the information you provide enables him or her to better establish a diagnosis, or to determine which treatment is most appropriate. Never fib in response to questions about alcohol or drug use, sexual history, or other lifestyle matters. Be honest about the extent to which you are taking your prescriptions or following a treatment plan. Withholding the truth can affect the quality of your care and can even lead to a wrong diagnosis.
Finally, the office medical assistants and nurses can be an additional resource of information. Do not hesitate to ask them questions about your concerns as well.
Advance preparation for a doctor's visit is a vital step toward becoming a partner in your own health care and an advocate for your health and well-being. A good doctor will always encourage your desire to understand as much as possible about your condition and will welcome active participation.