You’ve got a medical issue you want to address, but the standard 10-15 minute doctor’s appointment isn’t enough time to speak to your care team about your concerns. Or, in some cases, you might experience a physician who brushes you off, rushes through the appointment or isn’t listening.
While it may seem there’s not much you can do about short appointment times or a busy physician, there are things you can do to advocate for yourself and strengthen your doctor patient relationship the next time you visit the doctor.
Prepare for your appointment: Whether it’s your annual physical exam or for a more pressing concern, preparing for your appointment allows you to specify what you want to discuss and what questions you have. It can be helpful to make a list of your concerns, symptoms and questions ahead of time to ensure you don’t forget anything you’d like to talk about. Having a list to discuss also allows your healthcare team to make the most of the time they have with you by focusing on your most pressing concerns. Don’t forget to also include a list of supplements and medications you take as well.
Ask questions: If your doctor writes you a new prescription or orders a test — or if you don’t understand what your doctor tells you — ask questions. Ask what the prescription or test is for, if there are any side effects that you should watch for and why they are prescribing it.
Also, ask if there is anything you need to do to prepare for the test or if there are any specific instructions you should follow when taking the medication. If you’re receiving a test, don’t forget to ask when the test results will be ready and how they will communicate them to you.
If you receive a new diagnosis, the National Institutes of Health recommends you ask your doctor if your condition is chronic or can be cured, where you can learn more information about the condition and how it can be treated or managed.
Ask for another appointment, if needed: You can be well prepared, but time limits on appointments can still leave you with unaddressed concerns. If you have additional needs, don’t forget to ask for a follow up appointment.
Bring someone with you: You’re dealing with a concerning medical issue or you’re just nervous about your appointment. Whatever the case, it can be difficult to remember everything that was discussed. If you’re dealing with a complex or chronic condition and seeing multiple providers, the person you bring with you can help you remember each treatment you’re receiving or medications you’re taking. They can also help take notes and ask questions about next steps and a treatment plan.
Know when to seek a second opinion or find a new doctor: A strong doctor-patient relationship is a partnership, but if you feel like you don’t work well together, consider finding a new physician. If your doctor doesn’t take the time to listen and answer your questions, doesn’t explain why they recommend treatments, frequently interrupts you, disrespects you or you don’t feel comfortable disclosing important details of your condition, you should end the relationship.
You know your body best, so if you feel the treatment or diagnosis you receive isn’t correct, a second opinion may be in order.