Making the Most out of Doctor VisitsOct 31, 2013
Seeing your doctor can be overwhelming. Before an appointment, there are a few things you can do to get the most out of your visit. Dr. Tom Miller tells you why it's important to start by asking questions.
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Interviewer: Get the most out of your doctor's visit. You've scheduled a doctor's appointment because you feel that there's something wrong with you, you go in, what should you know to be sure you get the most out of that? We're talking with Dr. Tom Miller from University of Utah hospitals. What do I need to know about getting the most out of my doctor's visit?
Dr. Miller: It's a great topic, and the best thing for patients to do coming to see their doctors is to write down a list of questions for their doctors, especially as it pertains to what's bothering them.
Dr. Miller: Because many times patients will come in to see the physician and they'll have several things they want to talk about, one of them is the primary concern but they'll also have some other things they want to talk about and then they get into the conversation and they get into the exam room and they tend to forget.
Dr. Miller: And so writing these things down is a good idea and it helps actually make the visit more efficient and it's a way that the patient can get specific information and then leave having their questions answered instead of having to walk out to their car and say, "Oh God, I meant to ask him that question." And even for the physician it's very important that the patient feels like that they were able to get the information they needed before they leave.
And then there's always what we call the latchkey question. It's, "By the way, Doctor, I just forgot, I want to tell you about . . ." and by that time it's a little bit too late because the visit is near completion and the physician may have to go onto the next visit.
And sometimes you can write email. Doctors will allow you to write email questions. These are the questions that I want to ask during the visit if you don't have time to write it down before the visit but most people can write them down on a little piece of paper or put them on their iPhone as a series of things that they want to talk about.
Interviewer: Do you like patients that are educated on their conditions or would you rather them not be?
Dr. Miller: An educated patient is always a better patient.
Dr. Miller: The better informed one is the more invested they are in their own health care. So I welcome people coming in with questions. Many times they'll be looking at the Internet. There are all kinds of information on the Internet. Sometimes there's misinformation but in general most patients are pretty discerning about what they read on the Internet and they're actually asking your opinion. And that's a good thing.
They'll bring this information to you and ask your comment about it and physicians should take that as a compliment. And the fact that patients are interested enough to look for things to try to understand what's going on with them by using information sources that they can find on the internet is not a bad thing. It's your job as a physician to guide them in terms of what's valuable and perhaps what isn't.
Interviewer: What kind of questions should a patient ask a physician? Is there anything in particular they should ask?
Dr. Miller: Before a patient leaves his visit, he should understand what the diagnosis is as best as the physician can discern and they should understand what the treatment plan is.
Dr. Miller: And if they don't understand that they should not be shy about asking for clear instructions and written instructions.
Interviewer: So like, "What kind of medications will I be taking? How should I take them? Do you expect me to return for another visit?" Are those the types of questions?
Dr. Miller: Those are the basic things that patients should know, and we as physicians know that but sometimes we don't always get that information across and patients should not feel shy about asking. It's very important that they leave knowing what the treatment will be and what they should expect in terms of side effects, if any, as well as when to call a physician if things don't seem to be going well on the treatment plan prescribed.
Interviewer: Sometimes we do have a question after we leave; we've kind of discussed that a little bit. What should a patient do to get that question answered? I've already made it to my car.
Dr. Miller: There are several ways to do that. One is if you're on the electronic medical record that we have here at the University of Utah, you can sign up to review parts of your medical record and you can also send questions to your physician. And that would be one way that you could say, "By the way, I wanted to ask a question. I forgot to do that," and the physician may be able to answer that online or may have you come back in to review that problem with you.
Another way would be to call them and say that you have a question that wasn't answered and express that to the physician's medical assistant or nurse, and then the physician may call you back or have the nurse call you back with the answer to that or you may have to come in.
Interviewer: When it comes to getting the most out of your doctor's visit, final question, what's the one take away you would like a patient to have?
Dr. Miller: Do not be shy about asking questions and make sure you understand what the treatment plan is when you leave the office.
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