How To Speak Your Doctor’s Language

I hear people often say their General Practitioner doesn’t listen or they don’t have enough time during their scheduled appointment. I’ve been there so many times and have come up with a system that works for me. You can adapt to what works with the doctor and your style of communication. 

Knowing exactly how much time is scheduled for the appointment is the first step. My previous doctor scheduled 15 minutes, was always late and rushed off to the next appointment. After several months of total frustration, he had the office check to see if my insurance would allow a double appointment time, which they did. Now instead of 10 minutes at best I can 20 minutes. This made a huge difference. 

You have to set realistic expectations on what can be discussed in your allowed time slot. If you have 15 minutes you can expect 10 minutes in most cases. In ten minutes you can’t discuss 45 minutes worth of topics. Go in with an agenda of two items you want to discuss and have each item laid out on paper with any side effects or symptoms your having and any related questions. When your doctor comes in the room don’t sit and chit chat, go straight for I know you’re busy so here’s what I want to accomplish today. 

This will give your doctor time to ask more detailed questions and dig a little deeper each visit. It will also give you time to discuss any side effects you should be concerned about if a new medication is prescribed. Don’t walk out of there without asking what side effects you should be concerned about, I don’t care if you can look it up on the Internet. It’s the doctor’s responsibility to assess your specific health conditions and the medication. You don’t need all the details, just get the basics, WHEN to go to the hospital or call them. 

If you were not able to discuss all your issue and concerns then don’t leave without another appointment to get them covered. Working with your doctor is a process and one that will take time and each one is different. Remember your doctor is a generalist, not a specialist. If you feel your issues aren’t being heard after repeated attempts then ask for a referral. 

After 15 years I changed doctors, we just weren’t communicating anymore. It’s the best thing I could have done. I love my new doctor and her style, she’s very proactive and hands the baton off to a specialist much quicker than my old doctor. 

My current doctor schedules 30 minutes appointments, is rarely late and we cover three topics. I usually get the full 30 minutes if not a few more. She looks at my chart online while we’re talking if she needs to check medications, we discuss appointments with other doctors and we discuss my three topics or concerns. Because she is so close to the house and I get such focused attention I don’t have to see her as often or when I’m having a hard time, it’s very easy to see her more often. 

My doctor worked in an Internal Medicine office before so she is very familiar with Lyme Disease and Fibromyalgia. In just a few short years I’ve seen her, she has sent me to the appropriate specialist early on versus my old doctor who was slow to give a referral. She sends me a referral as soon as she’s out of her specialty. 

By doing so, she has helped discover several critical health issues that needed immediate attention without delay in trying to treat herself. This is one area I feel my previous doctor failed me in after seeing how my new doctor does business. 

She always looks up the side effects and checks to see if there are interactions with my other medications. She discusses side effects and even knows when my insurance company needs a preapproval on a medication. That way I can be mindful that if it takes a little longer to fill the prescription. 

I look at my doctor’s appointment like I did when calling on high-level executives during my sales career. They are pressed for time, have too much on their plate, usually have big egos and type-A personalities. When you meet with a C-level executive, you go in shake their hand, and tell them why you are there is a few brief sentences then you shut up.

I go to my doctor’s appointments with the same type of mentality. Know how much time I have, state what I need, and give my doctor time to their job. They can’t do that if I don’t stop talking and asking questions. 

Set the right expectation and if you are unsure then ask your doctor honestly how to get the best out of your time with them. 

Go in with facts, a list of symptoms but don’t tell them what is wrong with you unless you are with your specialist or you are talking specific illness-related questions. 

In what ways have you been able to improve your communication with your doctor?

Melinda

8 comments

  1. Love it, shared it and I schedule last patient appointments so my insurance companies and I get our money worth. I want to be able to talk, listen and ask all questions on my mind without doctors having to rush out. Great blog.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. These are some outstanding tips Mel! Like you, I have an excellent doctor who takes her time and is extremely thorough. I completely agree with you that we need to have a realistic expectation of what can be covered in the amount of time allocated for appointments and that we need to go in with a plan. Fantastic post my friend!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Terri. I hear so many talk about how their doctors don’t listen or don’t have time. I thought it would help to set expectations. I’m so happy to have my new doctor, going is never a hassle. Plus they have a portal which adds to the ease.

      Like

  3. This is an excellent post! Such good advice and I am a proponent of having a “plan” for my doctor visits as well. It’s easy to get nervous or distracted and forget what you need to discuss. I use handwritten reminders or my phone to help me cover everything. Thanks for sharing this important information. Best Wishes! Leigh

    Liked by 1 person

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