Make the most of your doctor's visit

Ever feel like you spend more time waiting in the reception room than you do with your doctor? There are some simple ways to ensure that you get the most out of that one-on-one time. Dr. Sheila (@DrSheilaW) explains how.
The best time to see your doctor
  • Tuesday's are one of the busiest days, as are Thursday and Friday because it's closer to the weekend. 
  • Wednesday's are the quietest day of the week and easiest to get appointments. 
  • Monday's are the best day to get last minue cancellations. 
  • Early morning appointments are the least rushed: your doctor is fresh and there is less wait time. The alternative is first thing after lunch.
Making your visit more efficient
  • Consider tracking your symptoms before coming in by writing them down or using some helpful apps
  • For example, Periodtracker; Headache Diary Lite; Symple (symptom tracker)
  • Some doctor's offices will use technology to manage medical issues such as prescription renewals, quick follow-up and review of results. See if your doctor offers these options.
  • Always inform your doctor of any changes to your medications, if you've seen a specialist or another doctor/naturopath/Chinese medicine as well as other over-the-counter medications – as there may be potential interactions.
Tackle concerns in a short period of time
  • Don't wait until the last minute to talk about the biggest issue. It's affectionately known as “the doorknob” effect where people save the biggest issue for the last issue as they are walking out the door. If possible, bring your most important issue up first so your doctor can give it the attention it needs, rather than a rushed conversation. 
Book longer appointments
  • In general, a doctor's visit can be anywhere from 5-15 minutes in length. Most doctors prefer if you can stick to 1-2 issues per visit in order give each concern the proper and thorough attention.  If you have several issues to discuss, or you are going through a major change in your life that will take longer than a regular visit, ask your doctor for a longer slot. 
  • Some doctor's offices may prefer that you book two separate appointments to cover all the concerns while others would be okay with a double spot.  
  • Alternatively, consider booking with a student doctor, if available. Student doctors are given more time, are up to date and work with their supervising doctor to provide patients with very good care.
Get a second opinion 
  • It’s important for each of us to be advocates for our healthcare needs.  Diagnoses can be missed and if you have a concern or a symptom that worries you, you have the right to request a second opinion.  Understandably this can be a difficult thing to ask for, but be honest with your doctor about what worries you and request the option of seeing another specialist or looking further into the issue.
  • It is important to let your doctor know what concerns you most about the issue.  If it’s because you had a family member with a similar symptom that turned out to be something serious, that you read something about the symptom online or it’s stressing you out with worry, share that with your doctor. These details help to guide your doctor to rule out the potentially more serious diagnoses and can give some reassurance that the concern is being taken seriously and addressed.
Share a doctor with your partner and family
  • This is a really personal choice. Some couples prefer to see different doctors to keep things separate while others prefer to have one doctor for the entire family.  The beauty of family medicine is that we get to see whole families, which gives us a broader perspective of what may be happening at home such as stress with kids or if a family member is ill. It can also be helpful to know the entire family if there are medical conditions that run in the family (heart disease, cancers, diabetes).  
  • Also, it can be helpful when setting health goals to be able to work together with a family to make lifestyle changes. For example, when someone wants to lose weight or have a healthier diet – having both partners in on the conversation can be helpful to reach those goals.  
  • It’s important to mention that even if a family is seen by one doctor, the medical information remains confidential.
Communicate with your doctor
  • At the end of a doctor’s visit, you may have been given a new diagnosis, prescribed a new medication and maybe even had more tests ordered. With the number of potential points discussed, it can be hard to remember all the details that were discussed.  
  • If you forget something that was discussed, most doctors appreciate hearing this to ensure that you are both on the same page. The way to find out this missed detail depends upon your doctor’s office. 
  • Some offices will take phone calls and either your doctor or a nurse may call back with an answer. Some may have the option of emailing your doctor. Others may request that you make another appointment.
  • To decrease the risk of forgetting, I recommend writing down the points during the visit and do a quick recap at the end make sure there is a common understanding of what’s next and when to follow-up.
Factors to consider when looking for a new doctor
  • The first factor is obviously hours of operation – do they suit your lifestyle?  Also after hour’s services: do they have a call service, after hours clinics, weekend clinics – especially important with little ones at home.
  • Location: some prefer having a doctor close to work while others close to home – see what’s most convenient for you.
  • Do they work in a team? Many doctors will have teams including nurses, social workers, dieticians, psychologists that you can work with to optimize your health.  
  • Finally, but most importantly – is it a good fit? You want to find a doctor that you feel comfortable seeing and discussing all issues, including the most sensitive ones.

For more on Dr. Sheila, follow her on Twitter
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