Doctors have a tough job. They assess your problems, make a diagnosis, and recommend treatment all within a 15 to 20-minute office visit. They are expected to not make any mistakes and make you happy at the same time.
Rinse and repeat for up to 100 patients per week. Talk about pressure.
The healthcare system is very interested in knowing how satisfied you are as a patient with your doctor, but have you ever wondered what your doctor thinks about you?
"Well, of course, I am the perfect patient," you might say.
Truth be told, there are certain things about you that your doctor does and does not like.
By doing things that make it harder for your doctor to care for you, you are not getting the most out of your treatment.
Find out the secrets as to how you can become the exemplary patient and in turn receive better care from your doctor.
1. Be prepared for the visit
Before your visit, you need to do a little prep-work.
Write down questions you want to ask so that you don’t forget them. There’s nothing worse than getting home after an office visit and realizing you forgot to ask an important question.
Keep a list of all the medications you take (including OTCs, supplements, and herbals) so that there are no surprise interactions found later.
Be aware of your personal medical and surgical history as well as your family history.
Make sure your health insurance information is up to date and bring your cards with you.
If it’s your first time seeing your doctor, bring copies of your medical records. Unfortunately, you can’t always rely on another office to fax over what is needed.
Also, it is acceptable to bring along any research or resources you may have found on the internet that you would like to discuss.
Consider bringing along a loved one who can act as a ‘recorder’ or a second set of ears. Just don’t let them take over and run the appointment.
2. Be on time
I know you are saying "Are you kidding me? I always have to wait forever to see the doctor!"
It is very easy for doctors to run behind for one reason or another such as a particularly chatty patient or a complicated case.
However, most of the time, it is because a patient showed up late to their appointment and therefore put the rest of the day behind. Blame that guy.
Don’t be that person. Arrive 15 minutes early so that you have time to fill out any necessary paperwork and get checked in.
If you hate waiting, try to get the first appointment of the day when the office is less likely to be running behind. You might get a little extra time to get all your questions answered.
3. Be aware of your expectations
Many people have the mentality that when they go to see their doctor, all of their problems will be magically fixed right now by some pill or treatment. This could not be further from the truth.
Honestly, not every single symptom can be cured. However, the ailments that can be remedied often require patience as well as lifestyle interventions on your part.
Keep open communication with your doctor and set goals for what you can accomplish during this office visit and in the future. This will cut down on frustration for both sides.
4. Be organized
Before your visit, make a list of questions that you want to ask and things that you want to discuss with your doctor. This is helpful so that you don’t ask the same question multiple times or forget something. Prioritize the most important questions. Make it known at the beginning of the visit what your top concerns are.
Keep in mind that your doctor has their own agenda and their own topics they want to discuss.
If the visit appears to be drawing to a close and you haven’t yet discussed your top issues, gently remind the doctor of those questions.
Don’t be guilty of what’s known as a "doorknob complaint" which is waiting until the doctor is about to leave the room to bring up a serious issue.
5. Be honest
It may seem obvious that lying to your doctor is a bad idea but people still do it out of fear of judgment or embarrassment.
Don’t hold back on the truth regarding your lifestyle. If you smoke, eat poorly, or don’t exercise, tell the truth. You will not be judged.
If you stopped taking your medication a month ago for some reason, tell the truth. Whether you think you don’t need it or cost has become an issue, your doctor can help you come up with a new plan that works for you.
Lying only makes your doctor’s job harder. He or she only wants to help you. By being honest, you will gain your doctor’s trust and make them feel as though they can influence your good behavior.
6. Be compliant
There is nothing more frustrating for a doctor than a patient who does not follow through on prescribed recommendations, whether it be a medical treatment or lifestyle interventions.
If you do not comply with treatment, you are only sabotaging yourself. You are also sabotaging your doctor’s efforts to help you which may make them feel less invested in your case.
Let your doctor know if you do not agree with their recommendations or you just cannot follow through with them. Your doctor is willing to work with you to find an acceptable solution.
7. Be assertive, but not pushy
Nowadays, patients have more access to health information via the internet but this knowledge can sometimes be dangerous. From symptom checkers to drug marketing campaigns, it is nearly impossible to resist doing some research.
But, don’t be the person that has made a self-diagnosis from Dr. Google and comes in to demand a particular medication or treatment. Your doctor does not want to hear this and will not take you very seriously.
Also, don’t be the person that demands all of the screening tests. Just because a screening test exists, doesn’t mean that you need it. It is possible to overdo it when it comes to medical testing. This increases the likelihood of false positives and unnecessary procedures.
Instead, paint an accurate picture of your symptoms and history of illness and let your doctor come up with their hypothesis first. Once you’ve heard what they have to say, then it is okay to offer up what you have read during your own research to get their thoughts. Let them be in control.
This will allow you to work together to come to a solution. Trust their expertise and knowledge.
8. Be respectful of your doctor’s time
As mentioned before, showing up early to your doctor’s appointment is helpful in order to maximize the time of your visit.
Also, keep your discussion focused. The more time you spend telling stories about your sister’s dog is less time you get to discuss your symptoms and testing and to ask questions.
9. Be grateful
Let your doctor know that you appreciate their time and knowledge. A simple ‘thank you’ goes a long way. It makes all of the hard work worthwhile.
Send a note or card to your doctor’s office if they have helped you through a particularly rough illness or if they have gone above and beyond to serve you. You will definitely stick out in their minds (in a good way).
10. Be genuinely interested
Being truly interested in your health and what your doctor has to say will put you in a good light. Even if you’re not completely on track with your recovery from your health problem, your doctor likes to know that you are invested and giving it your best try. They will be much more inclined to stick with you for the long haul.
Also, taking interest and showing enthusiasm are great first steps to becoming an active participant in your health care (as opposed to being a passive patient). Being an active patient puts you in the driver’s seat of your health. Learn more about active vs. passive roles in healthcare here.
Be the ‘good patient’
The doctor-patient relationship is like any other relationship-- it needs trust, communication, and understanding to thrive. It is a two-way street.
Your doctor only wants to help you. But it takes a little bit of work on your part to form a partnership to work towards the goal of better health.
Follow these tips and you will soon be treated like a VIP.
Meet the Author
Shannon is a nurse practitioner with an array of clinical experience. She is particularly passionate about health promotion and disease prevention. When she's not nurse practitioner-ing or writing, she enjoys reading, cooking, and yoga. You can check out her blog at https://shannonthenp.com.