How To Get Your Doctor’s Full Attention

I hear stories every day about doctors not listening to the patient. I’ve had two situations like this and both ended differently. The first time, I encountered a frustrating conversation with my Psychiatrist, he had me talk with a Therapist in the office. She had known him for a long time and she gave me pointers on how to get his attention and keep him from getting frustrated. She said to keep things short and sweet. It worked. That meeting made all the difference and still see him 30 years later, her too for that matter.

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The second experience was building over months and months. I was coming off of Lyme Treatment and had my GP take over my care. He worked with me but was always in a rush, even after booking double appointments. I learned to keep my list short so we could get to all my issues. It came down to the fact that I had maxed out on Tramadol and isn’t wasn’t working. He had no idea where to go next and didn’t refer me to a Pain Doctor. I quit his practice. Most doctors can tell when they have all they can. If they are out of your bailiwick they need to pass the patient on for the things they need assistance with.

I’m glad that decision was made. I love my new doctor and she sends me to a specialist when I have a problem she can’t address. She spends 30 minutes with patients giving plenty of time to discuss your list, maybe. You have to prioritize what issue is most important and start your conversation with that. 

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Don’t set unrealistic expectations. They have very tight schedules even Specialists and they can’t answer every question you have. You have to narrow it down to three items at most. Write down your questions so the doctor can see you are prepared.

Once in, skip the pleasantries and jump right in. Say I know you are busy so let me jump right in. Then ask your first question, if it draws out because it needs explaining then schedule another appointment before you leave to follow up on other questions. I believe we have to go into a doctor’s office knowing that we are not going to get everything answered in one meeting unless we only have one question.

Bring a dedicated journal to write just medical notes in. This is where you write your questions and your perception of the meeting. Be sure to date each appointment. 

The worst thing we can do is play Internet doctor and go in telling them what’s wrong with us. Write your symptoms in a journal, start talking about the most important item for you and let them take the lead, speak up if you need to interject. Be very aware the doctor at most practices only gives 15 minutes to each patient however, if they run late you may not get your full appointment time. Always book a double appointment if insurance will let you. I did that and it helped a great deal. Then I got close to 20 minutes with him and he was less in a rush.

Another best practice is to take someone with you. If it’s someone close to you it’s possible they’ve noticed something new about you and can tell the doctor. I think anyone with a mental illness needs to take someone with them. It gives your partner or family member to hear straight from the doctor’s mouth what is wrong and what you need to take or do.  

Don’t leave the doctor’s office without talking about the side effects of any new medication written.

What hacks do you have for getting your doctor’s attention?



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