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5 Tips to Make Your Family Doctor Visit More Valuable for You
By Dr. Amy Crawford-Faucher

Amy Crawford-FaucherAll of us, even physicians, have had the experience of being a patient. We’ve all faced the cold waiting room littered with old tattered magazines, and wrestled with the niggling worry in the back of our minds about what the visit might bring. Going to the doctor, even a trusted family physician, can be a time-consuming and stressful experience for anyone.

Because physicians see patients every day, we sometimes lose sight of the anxiety that accompanies you to our office. But we would like to make the experience as efficient, helpful and worry-free as possible for you. So the next time you are scheduled for a doctor visit, consider these 5 tips that may help improve the experience.

  1. Bring a written list of your concerns for the visit. In the bustle of the visit, it is easy to forget something that has been bothering you. If we don’t discuss it at the visit, you’ll either keep worrying about it, or spend valuable time playing phone or email tag with your doc after the visit – which is definitely less helpful for all involved.
  2. Don’t worry that there are too many items on that list. I find even long lists useful.  Even if we can’t address every concern on it at the visit, we can use it to prioritize the most pressing worries or symptoms to focus on and schedule a return visit soon to handle the rest.
  3. Bring up your most embarrassing concern first. Physicians are all familiar with the “by the way, Doc, there is one more thing…” that tends to happen at the end of the visit when we have our hand on the door knob. I understand that it may take that long to work up enough courage to mention it, but by then we cannot give this symptom the attention it deserves.  And you don’t need to worry about embarrassing us; we’ve heard it all before.
  4. Bring a support person with you, if you are worried that you may not be able to remember the plan. Health care is complex, and even with written-after-visit summaries, there often is confusion about how tests can be scheduled, or how to take new medications. Having a co-pilot in the room to take notes and ask questions for you, can help.
  5. Bring a good book or other activity in case you have to wait. I never plan to keep my patients waiting or get behind on my schedule, and I think most doctors agree with this. However, there is a constant conflict between staying on schedule and giving patients the time they need. Some days we may have to handle unforeseen or urgent situations, which puts us behind for the next patients. Having something to do that is not just looking at your watch can make that waiting a little less loathsome.

The best care happens when patients and their physicians communicate directly, honestly and fully. See if these strategies can help make your experience more pleasant and beneficial.

Dr. Amy Crawford-Faucher is a family physician and the program director for the Forbes Family Medicine Residency Program of Allegheny Health Network and a member of the board of directors for the Family Medicine Education Consortium.

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