April 29, 2022

Short take: How to Be a Patient

Short take: How to Be a Patient

Tips on how to get the most out of your visit with a doctor or healthcare provider.

What can you do to get the most out of your visit with a doctor? There actually are a few things that you can do! Bringing your list with you, asking questions the right way, and being totally honest are a few. 


Heather Johnston:

This is doctor patient, a podcast that examines all the aspects of the patient provider relationship. I'm your host, Heather Johnston, MD, a real life doctor and patient. Today I'm doing what I'm calling a short take. 5 to 10 minutes of me talking about a general health care topic. These short takes are meant to be quick tips that you can take away to affect your own doctor-patient relationships for the better. As a patient, what's your role in the doctor patient relationship? What do you want to get out of it? In the modern healthcare system, it often feels as though it can be hard to get what you want, whether that's simply a face to face appointment with your doctor, a timely return of your phone call, or what feels like enough time and a health visit. So what steps can you take as the patient to get the most out of your visits with your doctor? Today I'll give a few tips on how to make that happen. First off, understand the different kinds of health visits that your doctor's office or clinic offers. Usually, there's an annual checkup, also called a wellness visit, yearly visit or preventive visit. These appointments are hopefully longer and meant for general head to toe check in. The doctor should be asking you about all sorts of questions about your physical and mental health and about your diet and exercise. There may be some lab or radiology or other tests involved after the visit, depending on what your medical conditions are. Then, most offices offer what's called an urgent care visit. These are much shorter visits meant to focus on one or very few problems that can't wait until your next annual visit. These could be 10 or 15 minutes long. Usually these visits are for people who are sick or having a relatively urgent problem. Some offices might offer other kinds of shorter visits - the follow-up visit, where you're checking back in with the doctor about an issue that you've talked about previously. Or you might have a visit with a nurse practitioner or a nurse or something else like a vaccine only visit. Scheduling the right kind of visit is your way of communicating to your doctor what you need. If you're unsure what kinds of visits your doctor's office offers, call and ask them. Second, brings some things with you. Always bring a list of your questions on paper or electronically. You may think you'll remember them all but you might not. Or if you're like me, you absolutely will not. Bringing your list with you increases the likelihood that you'll get all your questions answered. It also lets the doctor know right away how many things they need to leave time for, sort of a bird's eye view. In addition to your list of questions, bring your medication bottles with you. Medication lists in electronic medical records are often wrong, and the safest way to ensure that your dosages are correct is for the doctor to see what you're actually taking. Also, if you have papers or images from another doctor, clinic or hospital, bring them with you. That can be very helpful. Generally, it's best to err on the side of bringing too much to the visit rather than not enough. Third, take notes if you can. Or, if someone else is with you, ask them to take notes. As an example, I keep my phone nearby during most of the visit and have my list of questions on that and I type in the answers right there as we're talking. Alternatively, just bring some paper and a pen. Read over what you've written down before you walk out to make sure that you understand the answers you've gotten to your questions. If you don't, it's much less efficient to have to get a hold of the doctor again later to ask a follow-up question. Fourth, be honest, this might seem obvious, but there may be times when your doctor is asking about something that feels very personal or sensitive, perhaps about alcohol or drug use or sexual activity. Or maybe you have not been taking your medications as they had prescribed. Most doctors really don't judge these things. They're asking because there's potential areas where they can offer help. So the more accurate you are in your answers, the more relevant help you'll receive. Lastly, speak up. Try not to feel scared or intimidated. Your doctor is there to help you and they really do want to know what's on your mind. If you're not understanding something they're telling you, just say "I don't quite understand that. Can you explain it differently?" Well, I hope this list helps. It's not comprehensive in any way. It's just a starter list. Stay tuned for part 2, later in this season. And good luck. If you have some other ideas that I missed whether you're a doctor or a patient, please email them to me at drpatientpodcast@gmail.com or leave a comment at www.drpatientpodcast.com. Thanks for listening today. To catch up on more episodes and to get new ones delivered directly to you, subscribe wherever you find your podcasts - Apple, Google Spotify iHeartRadio and more. If you'd like to be a guest or have an idea for an episode Let me know at www.drpatientpodcast.com. That's drpatientpodcast.com. Here's the disclaimer. Even though I am a doctor, I'm not your doctor. These stories, my comments and all discussion is purely reflection about what's working in the healthcare system and what isn't. Don't use any medical information that you hear in these episodes to diagnose or treat yourself. If you have a question about your health, get in touch with your doctor or local health clinic