5 Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Doctor Appointments

Although it's true that doctors are in charge at all times, it's up to you as a patient to make sure that you get the most from each doctor's visit.  Think of yourself as a new recruit at a military training facility and the doctor as the base commander. 

I'm tempted to say the "drill sergeant" but "base commander" is more applicable since the latter is more likely to consider something you may think or say provided that what you have to say is to the point, valid and helpful.

I know that some patients resent the "adult-to-child" paradigm but doctors simply don't have the time or the patience to negotiate or discuss things ad infinitum.  Clearly, what we have going at a doctor's office is more of a dictatorship than a democracy--like it or not.

This may not apply to every doctor but even "chummy" and PR-obsessed doctors have to be militaristically efficient or else they will either not keep up with their case-loads or upset the powers that be.

Here are some simple things you can do to make the most of your next visit to the doctor:

1.  Cut out the social banter/chatter.  Let's face it:  you don't go to see your doctor in order to meet social responsibilities.  Time wasted exchanging greetings & swapping irrelevant information is time better spent going over your symptoms, complaints and expectations.

2.  Focus on your main complaint(s).  Some people try to resolve or address all sorts of issues during each doctor's visit.  Don't make this serious mistake.  If you have to, make another appointment for peripheral issues.  There is only so much that can be achieved in one short session.  If you feel unable to decide what is most important, let your doctor decide what to focus on for that visit by providing her with a list of the most current health concerns.

3.  Research your topic thoroughly so you can ask pertinent, intelligent and practical questions.  Some doctors get perturbed by patients seeming to be diagnosing themselves but this can help the process in most cases as long as the info you get enhances and clarifies what you hear from your doctor.  In some cases you may even help educate your doctor on some new procedure or treatment he may not yet be thoroughly familiar with.

4.  Write down or record what you're told.  Many people miss some of the information imparted by doctors and nurses.  There isn't enough time or opportunity for them to give you everything that is said in writing.  That's why you are expected to listen closely to everything you are told. 

5.  Become a critical listener/participant in the process.  Some doctors prefer to do most if not all of the thinking for their patients.  But a good doctor prefers to get you personally involved in the process.  To that end, question things that don't make sense to you and don't be afraid to disagree when necessary. 

Some doctors, for example, have been known to test their patients by saying ridiculous things like "I want you to drink 3 gallons of water each day to see if we can get that kidney stone out of you." If the patients says something silly like "I sure will, doctor," it's the doctors duty to scold the patient with "You weren't listening to me were you? I would prefer that you think about what I'm saying rather than just nodding like a trusting child."

Trusting your doctor doesn't mean you're required to turn your brain off.


You can't afford to waste any time when you visit your doctor.  It's not just a matter of cost but of what benefits you lose when you mismanage or allow others to mismanage the time you're paying for.  As a general rule, doctors strive to be efficient but it's possible for health professionals to be highly "efficient" while at the same time not delivering what's best for you.  It's up to you to make sure that your needs are being met as well as possible. 

You can achieve this by avoiding mistakes commonly made which will mostly affect you and your health.  Secondly, you can become a proactive, well-informed and critically-thinking patient. 

If you follow this approach, the prognosis is "good!"

3/2/2018 8:00:00 AM
After a successful, lengthy practice, Dr. Herrera decided to retire and consult and write. Today he is, officially, a Medical Writer, editor, researcher and technical consultant.
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I really like your post. You have mentioned interesting things in this article.
Posted by Jack Simon
"Some doctors prefer to do most if not all of the thinking for their patients. "
My main complaint is that doctors ALWAYS do my thinking for me. They don't listen to what I have to say, just the first few words out of my mouth, then they make a diagnosis based on that. PLEASE listen to what I have to say and try to help me with what is actually troubling me. I was taking prescription medications for more than 20 years trying to relieve pain from a car wreck that nearly killed me. I kept telling my doctors that there is something wrong in my left hip. They would prescribe higher dosages of Ibuprofen, Acetaminophen and opiods to mask the pain. After 20 years of that BS I thought I put my foot down and told my doctor that I was uncomfortable with taking high doses of ibuprofen every day for 20 years, I want to get rid of the source of the pain. e wrote me a prescription for a different NSAID, Naproxen. That didn't relocate my hip, it put me in the hospital a few weeks later with internal bleeding! I found a physical therapist who checked me out and told me what I'd been saying for more than 20 years, "My hip feels like it's out of joint". He reset my hip , (had to d it two more times in the following few months), but that took away the source of the pain and eliminated my dependence on NAIDs to function on a daily basis. Doctors use "Maintenance drugs" to maintain you at a certain level of discomfort, not to cure what ails you. If you've been on "maintenance drugs" and haven't seen progress but have been managing to get by without loss of life, do yourself a favor and look in a different direction for relief. You need to remedy the source of the discomfort, not "maintain" he level of discomfort. Since I found a physical therapist who could actually correct my problem and eliminate the source of the pain I haven't taken as much as an aspirin, Advil or Aleve to he;p relieve the discomfort.
If your doctor is jerking you around or otherwise not directly addressing your problem, look for a different remedy. It may be as simple as a different doctor, but it may require you to look in a different direction. Perhaps a physical therapist, A chiropractor, a holistic or other natural approach, but please don't give up hope and abandon your quest for relief.
Posted by Jamie

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