How to Make Sure Your Next Doctor's Visit Isn't a Total Bust

Health Check 4

doctors consulting patientHow many times have you gone to the doctor, only to feel like the speed at which you were shuttled in and out left your head spinning? Or you laid on the table in a vulnerable position, trying to shoot off the questions you had made a mental (or actual) checklist of, while your doctor pretty much had his or her hand on the door?

I've experienced the above personally quite often and heard the same complaints from friends lately. It's almost as if the problem is getting worse. "Pink medicine woman" and author of What's Up Down There? Questions You'd Only Ask Your Gynecologist If She Was Your Best Friend, Dr. Lissa Rankin, has partnered with to help them launch a campaign aimed at empowering patients called No Question Left Unanswered. She notes that the shortage of time patients and doctors have with one another is definitely a sign of the times.

As she shares on her blog,, many doctors see more than 40 patients per day, so the average doc's visit only lasts about 13 minutes. But some patients are only getting 5 minutes, while "a lucky few" might get 30. Thirty seems like an ETERNITY compared to what you usually get, right?

And while the clock is ticking, most of us end up so intimidated and nervous about getting our questions answered that we strike out. We end up feeling helpless and it turns into, "Well, guess I'll take what I can get." I always do my damnedest to be the most educated and prepared I can be when going to see a regular doc, but it's almost always the same situation. I find myself stammering through my bullet points while they do something else, rushing around the room, writing, nodding, disagreeing with something I say that they may not have even really heard. It can be sooo discouraging!

But it's important not to get discouraged. Dr. Rankin suggests trying to employ several tactics to make sure you're heard. The biggie I always do and recommend to my friends: Do your homework before the visit. Seriously, it's become one of my favorite pastimes, because it really works. Sure, you can Google around, go on WebMD, etc., but you can get real one-on-one help via the web. That's what the No Question Left Unanswered campaign aims to do, by allowing people to send medical questions to licensed physicians whose credentials you can check. Gotta love the power of the Internet!

What's more, I've found that by taking a stab at getting advice online first, and then coming armed with extra info to your next real doc's appointment can really help you get targeted treatment. Worked for me just yesterday when I looked up symptoms, found the prescription name I needed, took it to my internist's nurse practitioner -- and voila! As it turns out, those 5 ... 13 ... even 30 minute visits to the doc don't have to be as short as they seem -- as long as you keep your mission in mind.

Are you frustrated by a lack of time with your doc? How do you make sure to get your questions answered?

Image via Seattle Municipal Archives/Flickr

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mande... manderspanders

It is frustrating and a disservice to people everywhere.

However, as Bachelor's prepared Registered Nurse, I can also tell you that people surfing the web, attempting to self-diagnose, and pick and choose treatments is NOT a good answer. There's a reason for the letters behind a doctor's name (or nurse's or PA's for that matter) and there's a reason you don't have them. Its great to be educated abd knowledgeable about your health, but it creates more problems when patients try to self-diagnose and get some idea stuck in their heads. Your best bet is to be confident and unafraid to ask questions.

Laurie Berg

Absolutely agreed manderspanders. I too am a registered nurse (in the ER), and I cannot tell you how many patients TELL US what they need. I especially like it when they tell us the antibiotic they want...for their positive flu swab. Or when they insist on a CT of the head with a MINOR head injury. As you mentioned, there is a reason why those in the medical profession have earned their degree. While I wholeheartedly recommend second and third opinions, changing physicians who don't meet your needs, or seemingly don't take what you believe to be enough time to address your concerns, I disagree with looking up drugs and conditions online unless you have been diagnosed with something or taking the medication. Sorry people..."Google University" has never graduated a reputable medical professional.

Heidi Evans

I would say Googling or using WebMD is about as accurate of a diagnosis that I can get from a doctor in 5 minutes. True they may have years of school, but 5 minutes?!? That's just ridiculous

nonmember avatar jaime

So first I should figure out what I have, then I should figure out how to fix it, then pay the doctor for...doing what exactly? If that is what it takes to get some help from your doctor, its time to find a new one :/

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