Insider Secrets for Your Next Medical Visit

Patients need to plan ahead to optimize their time with their physician. Get the most out of your visit with a little homework so you know the right questions to ask.

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On average, doctors spend less than 10 minutes with patients. They also, on average, interrupt the patient within the first 23 seconds of the conversation. This is usually because most doctors have heavy patient loads and try their best to see as many patients as possible. Time is limited.

Optimize Time With Your Doctor

In order to make sure your doctor completely understands your problems, make sure you prepare for your ER or primary care doctor visit by preparing a list of questions, symptoms, medications and allergies.

You can ask questions like:

  • How’s my overall health?
  • Are you concerned about any aspect of my health? Which aspect and why?
  • Are there any tests I should have based on my age or risk factors?
  • What can go wrong during these tests? Is there a place you would recommend getting these tests (i.e. mammogram, stress test, sleep study, etc.)?
  • Any recommendations about lifestyle modifications (such as exercising, quitting smoking or diet changes)?
  • Can you draw me a picture or show me what's wrong?
  • Is there more than one disease or condition that could be causing my symptoms?
  • What caused the disease or condition?
  • What is the short-term and long-term prognosis for my disease or condition?
  • Will I need to see a specialist?
  • Do I need to take precautions to avoid infecting others?
  • Are you going to recommend a surgical procedure? If so, what?

To make it easier for your physician (and yourself), you can also write out your medical history and grab all of your medications and medical records (EKG, test results, imaging studies, etc.).

Always Tell The Truth

Doctors hear fictitious stories all the time. If you say you smoke one cigarette a day, they hear that you really smoke a pack a day. If you say that you exercise once a week, most likely, they hear you say you never exercise.

It’s easy for people to feel embarrassed about their health – especially if it involves sensitive subjects (like bowel movements) or private areas (like the genitals or breasts). However, doctors will never judge you. They’ve heard it all, and chances are your story isn’t that bad.

Doctors all over the country can tell you countless stories of people who suffered or died from serious diseases that could have been caught early if the patient had been less embarrassed and more forthcoming with their initial symptoms. No one’s life should end out of fear.

Check Out Your “Preferred” ER

Most people don’t think of what hospital they prefer until they need one. Every year, 130 million people end up in the Emergency Room. Because it’s busy 24 hours a day, some of the biggest mistakes happen in the ER.

Everyone needs to find a hospital where they would prefer to go in case of an emergency. This doesn’t necessarily mean the hospital nearest you.

The perfect time to scout for a hospital is when you don’t need one. You should assess your hospital’s speed and level. All ERs have a level number. Level 1 ERs are the top hospitals and usually large teaching hospitals with specialists and high technology. ERs that rate a level 2 or 3 have a narrower repertoire and fewer specialists. Level 2 ERs tend to be in large- and medium-sized hospitals. Level 3 ERs are mostly found in rural areas.

Hospitals are required to document how fast they are at treating patients. All this information is available on the Joint Commission’s website at QualityCheck.org.

You can also talk to a nurse who works at your desired hospital to get the scoop on the doctors who work there. Talk to an ER nurse-manager at the best local hospital. A nurse in the intensive care unit is also a good choice. They get a battlefield view of doctors at their best and worst.