Doctor’s appointments can be frustrating with long waits, awkward silences, and questions left unanswered. Here are simple tricks to make your next doctor visit way better.
By Felissa Benjamin Allard
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Avoid Monday appointments
There is actually no best day to make a doctor’s appointment, says Michael Rabovsky, MD, family medicine physician and chairman of the department of family medicine at the Cleveland Clinic. But there is a worst one. Monday is always the craziest day for doctors who are trying to catch up on work from the weekend. His advice: If any other day works, avoid Mondays at all costs. (Here are 7 secrets to finding a doctor you can trust.)
Ask for the first appointment of the day
As a rule, doctors should not run late before their day even starts. “There is usually no wait if you book the first appointment of the day,” Dr. Rabovsky shares. But Dr. Rabovsky also says that the first appointment of the day doesn’t guarantee that you won’t spend some time in the waiting room. It varies by practice.
Come with an agenda
“Patients should have an agenda of what they want to accomplish at the visit,” says Dr. Rabovsky. “I would suggest prioritizing that agenda with the most important issues first, in the event there is not enough time to cover all your issues or concerns at one visit.” It also helps to keep a symptom diary leading up to your appointment so you are able to easily remember and share exactly what’s going on with your health. The more prepared you are, the easier it is for your doctor to help you. (Here, doctors spill the most annoying habits patients have.)
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Not taking vitamins? Been skipping your weekly workouts? Sneaking a cigarette here or there? Your doctor needs you to be truthful about everything that affects your health. “Being honest about whether you are following a treatment plan, and asking questions to understand that treatment plan is very important,” says Dr. Rabovsky. Doctors appreciate your honesty and that goes a long way with helping them format a new treatment plan. Here are some of the most common lies patients tell doctors (and why lying is a really bad idea).
Just like you don’t want to be kept waiting at your doctor’s appointment, your doctor doesn’t want to be kept waiting for you. Dr. Rabovsky suggests arriving early or on-time for an appointment unless you want to start your appointment off on the wrong foot before even entering the exam room. “Arriving to the office visit on time, and not canceling at the last minute helps build a relationship of mutual respect,” Dr. Rabovsky adds.
Don’t be demanding
Doctors may want you to feel free to be honest and ask questions, but Dr. Rabovsky suggests patients should avoid demanding unnecessary tests or medications. If it’s not medically necessary, try asking the doctor about it instead of demanding.
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Taking medications? Dr. Rabovsky says patients should come prepared, knowing which prescriptions they take or have taken, including dosage. He even suggests bringing the actual medication bottles so the doctor can make sure everything is correctly recorded. “There should be no confusion about what a patient is taking,” he says. In addition, remember to share any previous procedures or surgeries so the doctor can record previous conditions. Find out how to decode your doctor’s language.
Don’t be embarrassed
Remember, doctors have heard and seen it all from weird smells to unpleasant rashes to unexplained pain. A doctor isn’t there to judge you, but to help diagnose and figure out what’s wrong. “Don’t be embarrassed to ask any question. There is no such thing as a “stupid” question in the exam room,” says Dr. Rabovsky. Keeping a list of questions you may have helps when the time comes to voice your concerns to your doctor.