Every minute of your doctor’s visit should count. Most typical medical visits, especially in primary care, last about 15 minutes. To optimize your visit with the doctor, you need your visit to be as efficient as possible. Here is a list of 10 steps to ensure your medical visit goes well and gives you the most benefits.
Write down a list of medical concerns that you have, and list them in order of priority. Realize that most doctors’ visits can address approximately three concerns. Make the top three things on your list the most important for you.
Bring with you a neatly prepared list of your medical history, including past medical diagnoses and surgeries complete with the dates of occurrence.
Bring with you a list of all medications that you are currently taking. Don’t bring a bag full of medical bottles. Be sure to include the dosage, frequency, and how long you’ve been taking the medication. A website called drugs.com is excellent at helping you organize your medications, so you can readily update it and provide this information to all of your doctors.
Bring with you a list of your daily, social living habits, including exercise, tobacco consumption, sleep patterns, alcohol intake, and eating patterns.
If you are given a medical diagnosis, be sure to ask your doctor if your condition is temporary or long-lasting, and if it can be transmitted to others. Also ask if there is a genetic basis that could affect other members of your family.
If you are given a prescription for your medical condition, be sure to find out exactly how and when to take it. Ask the doctor what the possible side effects are and how long it should take before you can expect the medication to help your condition.
It is very important to be extremely honest with your doctor. Neglecting or holding back information that you may feel to be embarrassing, or telling a half-truth, could jeopardize your health. If you don’t feel comfortable with your doctor, you are always welcome to seek another doctor or a second opinion.
Ask your doctor if you can have written instructions on your diagnosis and treatment course, and a phone number of someone, either the doctor or their assistant, who you may call with future questions.
Ask your doctor how often you should have a general medical exam and stick to that plan.
Finally, at the conclusion of your office visit, you should know exactly what your diagnosis is, what the treatment plan is, and when you should return to the clinic for that particular condition. Make your follow-up appointment before you leave the office. Remember to always keep your follow-up appointment, even if you’re feeling better.
Developing a relationship with your doctor is not a one-time encounter; it is an ongoing relationship.
Charles E. Crutchfield III, MD is a board-certified dermatologist and Clinical Professor of Dermatology at the University of Minnesota Medical School. He also has a private practice in Eagan, MN. He has been selected as one of the top 10 dermatologists in the U.S. by Black Enterprise magazine and one of the top 21 African American physicians in the U.S. by the Atlanta Post. Dr. Crutchfield is an active member of the Minnesota Association of Black Physicians, MABP.org.