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Health Matters

It’s easy to get sidetracked, so consider it like a business meeting and arrive prepared.Getting the Most Out of Your Doctor

We’ve all been there: you arrive at your doctor’s office and are ushered into a room where you sit patiently until your physician sweeps in, does his or her thing, and is out the door again. Inevitably, on the trip home, you think of a dozen more questions you wish you had asked or points you should have mentioned.

Your time—and your doctor’s—is precious, so it goes without saying that you want to get the most out of your visits together. Sure, you should do your homework before you arrive. But there’s more you can do to ensure you get the best care and most lasting results possible. Dr. Allen Weiss, president and CEO of NCH Healthcare System, offers his wisdom on how you can maximize your relationship with your doctor.

• The most important thing, Weiss stresses, is sharing what medications you currently are taking. "Either bring them in the bottles they came in or write them down accurately, including how often you take them and the size," he says.

• Jot down your questions, concerns or symptoms before the appointment. It’s easy to get sidetracked when you’re face to face with the doctor, so consider it like a business meeting and arrive prepared. Weiss cautions against having too long of a list, though. "Sometimes when you come in with a paper that looks like a Ph.D. thesis, that’s a bit much," he says. "Come up with a reasonable list of what’s going on, the important topics you want to cover during the visit and what your expectations are."

• Whenever possible, bring someone with you who has your best interest in mind. "Patients tend to experience auditory shutdown with the stress of a doctor visit," Weiss says. Being able to go home and discuss what was said helps you remember details that may otherwise slip your mind. If you don’t have someone to go with you, taking notes can be helpful in reviewing post-visit.

“One simple thing is knowing the names of the people who help your doctor. You recognize them, and they’ll recognize you.”• The average length of a doctor appointment is just 13 minutes, according to the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey. Use the time you have well. "It’s nice to hear about the doctor’s dog and how the family’s doing, but after a moment of pleasantries, make the most of your visit,"
Weiss advises.

• Be honest with your doctor. "Sometimes people are embarrassed to say that they haven’t stopped smoking or they haven’t been on a low-fat diet," Weiss says. But physicians have heard it all, so be realistic and as accurate as you can be—if you’re not, the doctor’s ability to accurately diagnose you decreases considerably.

• Do your research online ahead of time. Websites like webmd.com can be useful in educating you on your symptoms and help you communicate them better, but skip the self-diagnosis and leave that to the professionals.

• "Realize that you’re working with a healthcare team," Weiss says. "One simple thing is knowing the names of the people who help your doctor. This is not a party, but people want to be recognized. You recognize them, and they’ll recognize you."

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