This is part 2 of a series of three posts. If you haven’t already, we recommend you read Part 1 about the best ways to prepare for your doctor visit before you read on.
The good physician treats the disease; the great physician treats the patient who has the disease. — William Osler
We in the medical field like to measure things: your blood pressure, your temperature, your cholesterol, etc. We collect, analyze, and look for trends—this is the science of medicine, but it is not all we need to know to help you optimize your health. You are more than the sum of your medical records.
The importance of the doctor-patient relationship on health outcomes has been known since the time of Hippocrates. In this modern scientific era, research also backs up the notion. Having health issues can make you feel vulnerable. We know you want to be heard, and we want to get to know you. Good communication is essential to your health.
This starts before you come in for your visit. In part one of this series, preparing for your visit, we discussed goal setting. Clarifying your priorities, and even bringing in a list of questions or concerns, sets the stage for effective communication during your appointment. Arranging for a supportive friend to accompany you or for language translation services is also important preparation if you need that kind of assistance.
Once you are here in our office, our opportunities to get to know you begin, and we don’t want you to be shy about expressing yourself.
Check in at the front desk
As soon as you arrive, check in at the front desk. Even if you are a little early, it is good for us to know you are here. We may have information for you or need to update your file. This is also a good time to ask about any wait time there might be. We try our best to be on time, but because we are all human, delays do happen. Knowing about a delay can help you better manage your time.
If you have prepared your list of questions and concerns for the doctor ahead of time, great! If not, jot some things down in the waiting room and fire away in the exam room. We need your questions to best understand your needs. Don’t be afraid to repeat yourself, either, if you feel you haven’t been understood.
Don’t be shy
Don’t be afraid to tell your doctor what is really going on with your health, even the embarrassing stuff. Our job is not to judge. We are here to meet you where you are in your life right now, with the goal of helping you be as healthy as possible. Taboo issues like drug use, sexual problems, and domestic violence are more common than you’d think. Just remember, your doctor has seen it all and has your best interests at heart. The more you speak up, the more help you’ll get.
Once you have voiced your concerns and asked your initial questions, be prepared for the new information you receive. Take notes or ask for things to be written down for you. This can help clarify things (like new medications and dosages) and help you remember them later on.
Repeat what you have learned
Sometimes it can feel like doctors are speaking a foreign language. Don’t be afraid to say something isn’t clear. Repeating information you have just learned, in your own words, is also a good idea. It can help you and your doctor make sure you understand the information. If your doctor is unclear, he or she has no way of knowing unless you speak up..
We’re all here to help
When you come in for a visit, your doctor is not the only person here to help and not the only person who can answer your questions. Our receptionists, nurses, and doctors work as a team, each with their areas of expertise and the ability to help get your needs met.
Think of yourself as a partner on a team dedicated to your health. The more you voice your concerns and ask questions, the more involved you’ll be, and the better your outcome. Stay tuned for part 3 of this series, filled with tips on how to make the most of your office visit after it’s over.