You are sick..,A sense of dread hits your stomach as you consider the hassle of taking time off work, spending all day sitting in your doctor’s office, and the sneaking suspicion in the end that you didn’t ask all the right questions during your brief appointment.
Maybe what deters you is not the time and energy investment, but the treatment you receive upon arrival that makes you hesitate; the front desk person is hurried and short, you wait for over an hour with no communication, and the doctor is distant and disengaged during your 15 minutes together.
These experiences are all too common for one reason–medical care is a business.
Whether a hospital or family practice, medical providers are under enormous financial pressure. Your doctor is balancing concern for your well-being with the “bottom line”, which may be why you feel unenthusiastic about your upcoming appointment.
So how do you change the experience and have the best doctor appointment ever? By following these simple rules; Be Prepared, Be Nice, and Be A Boss! Sounds too easy to be true, but these tips will lead to a more invested relationship with your doctor and hopefully better health for you!
1. Be Prepared, Be Prepared, Be Prepared!
If you were a Boy or Girl Scout, this tip should seem familiar. The motto for both the Boy and Girl Scouts is “Be Prepared”, and membership estimated at 28 million worldwide, they are doing something right (http://members.scouts.org.uk/supportresources/1625/register) Proper preparation for your appointment is the best way to maximize time with your doctor and feel more in control.
- Schedule At The Right Time - If you want to get in and get out of the doctor, try to schedule the first available morning appointment. You’ll be first on the doctor’s list and minimize your wait time.
- Make A List of Concerns - If you have an upcoming doctor’s appointment, make a list of all health concerns the week before, and review it the day before the appointment. Don’t fall into the trap of focusing solely on the major presenting issue, you lose out on receiving your doctor’s expertise on less urgent concerns and on future goals.
- Medical History - At The Care Plan, we strongly recommend that you keep a running history of your medical events. This tool will serve you in the long-term by maintaining an organized document you can use with other medical providers. A running medical history is a very useful tool for you and your doctor, especially if for people with chronic illness or multiple diagnosis. The document should include the date and service provider for: hospital stays, surgeries, major illnesses or infections, date of diagnosis for health conditions. Email us at email@example.com for your free copy of our Medical History form.
- Medication List - Bring a comprehensive list of your medications (or the pill bottles themselves) to your appointment. The electronic records system alerts your doctor to what other providers in their network have prescribed, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. You need to be honest about what medications you are taking, the effect they have on you physically and cognitively, and what prescriptions need to be refilled. If you feel over-medicated or ineffectively medicated, share specifics with your doctor and ask for further understanding of side effects or an alternative course of treatment.
2. Be a Boss
What does it mean to “Be a Boss”? I once had a client who was in her 80’s, she was very active, always on the go. After a consultation session, I inquired what was on her agenda for the afternoon. She matter-of-factly told me, “I’m going to interview a doctor”. You could have picked my jaw up off the floor, I asked if she was actually going to interview a doctor as you would a job applicant. She told me yes she was and, “if he wants my business, I need to be sure we can get along and he understands my needs before I commit to working with him”. She further explained to me, who has never ‘interviewed’ a doctor, that had been her practice for most of her life. Especially in her senior years, she took a deep investment in her health by interviewing a number of doctors before agreeing to give them her business.
To Be a Boss is to understand your doctor is providing a service and you have options. Yes, you need the doctor to feel better and maintain good health, but you also have a responsibility and are contributing to the livelihood of the doctor’s practice. Like my client, taking an active and organized approach is more likely to result in the best doctor appointment ever.
- Ask Around - Carefully consider your current and likely future health needs, ask friends for personal doctor referrals. If you attend a support group related to your diagnosis, ask the facilitators and participants for recommendations. Remember, a positive experience is rarely an accident, a caring and invested doctor is worth meeting.
- Do Your Research - According to USA Today, 1 in 4 of you are using the web to check doctor ratings*. http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/02/18/online-doctor-ratings/5582257/ Given that a good relationship with a doctor could quite literally save your life, that number should be 3 in 4. Back up your instincts with research, find out if the doctor you’ve chosen has high ratings and in what areas they excel. www.healthgrades.com, www.vitals.com, and the ever-present Yelp www.yelp.com have basic information as well as patient reviews.
One final step to doing your research is to check the physician is operating with a current license and does not have any malpractice claims. The American Medical Association has a database of the medical boards for each state. Often on your state’s medical board site, you can find license status information for nurses, therapists and other service providers as well. http://www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/education-careers/becoming-physician/medical-licensure/state-medical-boards.page?
- Take Initiative - My client is a perfect example of someone who takes initiative with her doctor. She had clarity on her expectations, and followed steps to achieve her desired outcome - a doctor who would respect her and with whom she could build a relationship. She understood that she had an active role in collaborating on her health goals.
- Communicate - One of the hallmarks of a good boss is excellent communication. If you are clear and consistent in your communication, your doctor will likely respond positively. Your doctor cannot read your mind and shouldn’t have to. Don’t be afraid to tell your doctor concisely what your needs are and ask if they can deliver.
If you prefer a physician who shoots from the hip and tells you in no uncertain terms what your condition is, let that be known. If you prefer to utilize alternative therapies such as acupuncture, massage, or chiropractic treatments, say so. Your approach to medical treatments may be in contrast with your doctor’s approach. If you don’t agree to and respect each other’s positions, conflicts and miscommunication could arise in the future.
- Give Feedback - If you have a good relationship with your doctor but they are not meeting your expectations, share in a kind and clear manner the reasons why. Ask if they can adjust to meet your needs. Your doctor can’t fix something on their end if they are unaware of a problem.
It is critical to your health that the doctor and office staff know your name and care about your well-being.
3. Be Nice
If you practice the old adage “it doesn’t cost anything to be courteous”, you are well on your way to having the best doctor appointment ever. Imagine the minute you walk through the doors of your doctor’s office that you are interacting with collaborators on a critical work assignment. The outcome could mean a promotion and raise, or if it goes poorly, being stuck in a dead-end job with no meaningful raise. How do you treat your co-workers in this scenario?
If you want to be successful you treat them with care, attention and respect. You make eye contact, smile often, and get to know them personally to gain investment in your collaboration. You find opportunities for personal connection and remember tidbits of their history to bring up and laugh about. You humanize the relationship because you care about success.
Everyone in your doctor’s office has a potential investment in you, but if you aren’t nice or considerate they likely won’t go the extra mile. Patients who get the most attention, faster returned calls, and better care are those who connect on a human level with the front desk staff, medical assistants, nurses and doctors in the practice. It is critical to your health that the doctor and office staff know your name and care about your well-being. Your doctor may see anywhere from 11-30 patients in a single day, according to a 2013 report from the Physician’s Foundation (http://www.physiciansfoundation.org/uploads/default/2014_Physicians_Foundation_Biennial_Physician_Survey_Report.pdf) You want to stand out in the crowd because your health depends on it.
Imagine you have an unexpected setback such as a heart attack, and end up in the hospital. When the hospital calls to get records and information from your doctor, will your doctor take extra time to consult because they really know you and care about your well-being, or are you just another patient? Will the front desk clerk postpone their lunch hour to fax the information to the hospital or will they wait that precious hour longer to send the information?
By taking the time to Be Nice, you can vastly improve your experience at the doctor’s office. Before you know it the front desk clerk who used to barely look at you will greet you with warmth and chat for a few minutes. Your doctor may even be able to recall your primary health diagnosis without looking at records. Certainly when you exhibit the above 3 tips you are making their job easier, and showing the doctor that you take your health seriously. In that alone you will set yourself apart from the crowd, and the doctor will likely ask more probing questions, and take the time to fully explain your health conditions as a result. Over time, practice being prepared, being a boss, and being nice; and your appointments will be more enjoyable and productive. Check out our Youtube page for more practical tips from The Care Plan.
These 3 tips are the toolkit you need to Have The Best Doctor Appointment Ever, but if you would like a tutorial, the Navigation Managers at The Care Plan are standing by to accompany you or your loved one to the next appointment. The Care Plan is a Chicago based consultative business, we provide Care Consultation & Management services and “My Care Map”, your road map to long-term health and aging success. If you want to feel more in control and experience health and aging on your terms give us a call today at 630-479-0083, we look forward to answering your questions.