Top 10 Tips to Get the Most out of your Next Doctor's Appointment
Updated: Oct 18
According to Reuters, the average physician visit lasts 20 minutes. That’s the average. We know that some visits can be as short as 2 minutes, or as long as an hour or two. Since it will be difficult to predict which extreme or average your next doctor’s visit will be, it’s a good idea to be prepared when you have something very specific on the agenda. Here are the top 10 tips on how to make the most of your time with your healthcare provider.
10. Provide all previous records, imaging, lab reports, etc that relate to the issue for which you are seeing your doctor ahead of time if possible. So your medical team can familiarize themselves with your case.
9. Bring along a friend or family member who has some healthcare background to your appointment, or simply for another set of ears in the room in case you question what was said afterward.
8. If this is a family physician or internal medicine visit, be sure to establish the relationship BEFORE any serious medical issues arise. This will allow you to determine if this provider is a good fit for your expectations of your input and involvement in your own care (do they practice patient-centered care?), and gives you time if needed to find a different provider.
7. If this is a new provider or specialist, check ratings on-line, paying special attention to the comments other patients have left. Does this sound legit, or does it make you worry that this provider is not for you? You can also call the provider’s office to be sure they see a lot of cases like yours to ensure a good fit for your medical needs. Word of mouth is often a good way to learn more about a local healthcare provider, but again, take what you hear with a grain of salt.
6. Make a typed timeline of your symptoms, treatments already attempted, and the response to each treatment that is streamlined and easy to follow to give to your new specialist a leg up on addressing the problem at hand.
5. Bring a list of current medications, dose amounts, how frequently you take them, and for what conditions you take them.
4. Make a list of your allergies to medications as well, noting your response to each medication on your list.
3. Ask your friends and family to help you make a solid list of all of the questions you have about your diagnosis, treatment, surgery, etc, and then prioritize that list (you might run out of time to get every question answered, or the nurse may be able to help you answer the remaining questions). Take notes of the answers to your questions during the visit. Also ask how you can contact your provider if additional questions or concerns arise.
2. Know the reason for your visit and determine what you think needs to happen at this particular visit. Prioritize your visit goals, in case the visit is inadvertently cut short.
1. Research possible diagnoses, so you can ask knowledgeable questions about pros and cons, risks, and side effects of diagnostics testing, medications, treatment options, what will happen if you don’t take a medication or get surgery, etc during your visit. Check out WebMD, healthline, Merck Manual, rarediseases or NORD, or Medline Plus for some reputable basic information sites, and pubmed.com for research articles.
Jill Murphy is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and founder of MotionWorks Physical Therapy and an advocate for patient-centered care. A Christian wife and mother of three, she survived a seven year journey through the broken American healthcare system in search for an answer to a heart arrhythmia that appeared during pregnancy. A stroke, open heart surgery for constrictive pericarditis, and several other surgeries later, Jill is telling her story of unfailing resilience in her upcoming book, Doctor Heal Thyself.
Having grown up on a dairy farm 40 minutes from Lambeau Field, Jill is an avid Green Bay Packers and Wisconsin Badgers fan, and is up for any activity with her three children, including walking, biking, throwing the football around, hiking in scenic locales, gardening, playing piano, singing, and coaching a middle school basketball game or two.