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 Avvo.com 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, OwningPink.com, 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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