Physicians are busy people, and with so many patients on their list each day, it can sometimes seem like they are flying through your appointment and rushing you out of the office. It certainly helps to look for a primary care physician who seems to take their time and offer more one-on-one attention to patients. However, when it comes to getting more out of your annual checkups, some of the burden lies on you—not just on the physician. Here are three ways you can get more out of your doctor's appointments so you don't feel like you're just being looked over and checked off of a list.
Make a list of questions ahead of time.
When you are a bit nervous and sitting on the doctor's table, it's not unusual for your mind to go blank. The doctor asks you if you have any concerns, and since you can't think of anything immediately, you just say "no." By responding this way, you're missing out on the most important opportunity of your doctor's appointment: being able to talk about your specific, personal health concerns with your physician. This can be avoided by planning ahead.
Several days before your appointment, start thinking of medical concerns you have. Jot them down on a note pad. Include any and all concerns, no matter how minor they may seem. Even things like "Why do my eyes run at night?" are worth bringing up to your doctor. Bring this note pad with you to your doctor's appointment, and when he or she asks if you have any concerns, pull it out so you know just what to talk about.
If you downplay your headaches or don't mention digestive issues because they're embarrassing, you can't expect your doctor to do anything about them. Your doctor has seen and heard it all, so set your embarrassment aside and be honest about what you're experiencing. If you give the doctor wrong or incomplete information, he or she will have a hard time making an accurate diagnosis and may skirt past an issue that really does deserve more attention.
If you think you'll have trouble bringing up certain embarrassing issues, practice talking about them in the mirror the night before your appointment. Feel free to use "substitute words" like "bottom" instead of "anus" and "lady parts" instead of "vagina" if it makes you more comfortable. If your doctor's not quite sure what you mean, he or she should ask for clarification.
Have your health history sent over.
If your doctor has a more complete history of your health, he or she will have an easier time deducing what may be causing certain symptoms and also making recommendations for future preventative care. So, make sure you call any previous doctors you've seen and arrange to have your health history sent over to the primary care physician you're now seeing. Do this well in advance of your appointment so that your physician has time to look over the material. If you just hand your doctor a stack of papers on the morning of the appointment, he or she won't likely be as thorough and may miss some important information when scanning over the documents quickly.
Note that some hospitals and doctor's offices have switched over entirely to electronic medical records, so the new doctor you're seeing should be able to log into the system and pull up your records without you having to send anything. It's still wise to let your doctor know that records from a certain other provider are in the system so that they know to look for them.
Annual checkups don't have to feel hurried and like a waste of your time. Arrange to have your health history sent over, be honest about your symptoms, and make a list of issues to discuss. You'll get more out of your appointment and feel more satisfied with the care you receive. To get started, click here for info.