How to Get the Most From Your Doctor Visits

Do visits with your diabetes healthcare professional seem shorter these days?

After sitting for an eternity in a waiting room, followed by a stay in a chilly exam room, you may feel that the time you actually spend with your physician is quite brief.

Surprisingly, a study published in the January 2001 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine found that the length of time spent with a physician actually increased by one or two minutes between the years 1989 and 1998. One survey noted an increase from 16.3 minutes to 18.3 minutes, and another from 20.4 minutes to 21.5 minutes.

But that is of little comfort if you believe that your diabetes concerns are not being addressed. How can you get the most out of each visit with your physician? How can you get your needs known and your questions answered?

Too often, by the time you see your healthcare professional, you no longer remember all you wanted to discuss. And calling the office after an appointment rarely brings a timely response.

Here are a few suggestions for getting the most out of your next appointment:

Choose a good time for your visit

All offices have a rhythm; certain times are calmer than others. If you need your doctor to spend additional time with you or at least be less rushed, ask to schedule your appointment during a slower time of day.

Bring along a notebook

Recording all your information in a notebook will help you follow your medical plan and chart your progress. You should record the following in your notebook:

  • List the topics you need to discuss. It is sometimes difficult to remember the most important concerns. Time with your physician is limited, so include only the most pressing questions.
  • Jot down possible solutions. If you wish to discuss a treatment option, be sure to write it down.
  • Take notes at your appointment. Write down any changes in your healthcare plan and other physician recommendations.

Turn off your cell phone

A phone call disrupts everyone’s train of thought and wastes valuable time.

Bring a snack

If you are fasting for a blood test, eat or drink once the test is completed. Hunger can cause you to lose focus and misunderstand instructions.

Set goals for your next appointment

Your visit will be especially valuable if you leave with a plan of action. Choose something you and your doctor agree that you need to work on, such as getting more exercise by walking 15 minutes each day. Set this goal with your physician, and report your progress at your next appointment.

Update your notebook between visits

Jot down any questions, problems or challenges that you encounter so you can discuss them when you see your physician next. Note your successes as well. How are you doing with the goal that you set at your last visit? Sharing good news is rewarding for both you and your doctor.

Don’t allow a brief appointment time to keep you from having a quality visit with your doctor. Take an active role in your health, and come to each meeting with updates, questions and important news to share.

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