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Making Good Use of Your Time with Your Doctor

It's important to make the most of the potentially short amount of one-on-one time you have with your doctor. These simple tips can make a big difference in the quality of care you receive.

Be Honest

It is tempting to say what you think the doctor wants to hear: for example, that you smoke less or eat a more balanced diet than you really do. While this is natural, it's not in your best interest.

Your doctor can suggest the best treatment only if you say what is really going on. For instance, you might say: "I have been trying to quit smoking, as you recommended, but I am not making much headway."

Decide What Questions Are Most Important

Pick three or four questions or concerns that you most want to talk about with the doctor. You can tell him or her what they are at the beginning of the appointment, and then discuss each in turn. If you have time, you can then go on to other questions.

Stick to the Point

Although your doctor might like to talk with you at length, each patient is given a limited amount of time. To make the best use of your time, stick to the point.

For instance, give the doctor a brief description of the symptom, when it started, how often it happens, and if it is getting worse or better.

Share Your Point of View About the Visit

Tell the doctor if you feel rushed, worried, or uncomfortable. If necessary, you can offer to return for a second visit to discuss your concerns. Try to voice your feelings in a positive way.

For example, you could say something like: "I know you have many patients to see, but I'm really worried about this. I'd feel much better if we could talk about it a little more."

The Doctor May Not Be Able to Answer All Your Questions

Even the best doctor may be unable to answer some questions. Most doctors will tell you when they don't have answers. They also may help you find the information you need or refer you to a specialist.

If a doctor regularly brushes off your questions or symptoms as simply a part of aging, think about looking for another doctor.

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