How To Reduce Frustration From Doctor Appointments

Steps To Reduce Frustration From Doctor Appointments
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Wouldn’t it be nice to feel optimism rather than frustration from doctor appointments? Being both a physician and a patient with chronic illness has provided me with insight into why medical appointments sometimes go poorly for patients and what steps can be taken to improve the outcome of these doctor visits.

The Reality of Modern Medicine

Most physicians work in a clinic setting and with insurance regulations that restrict the amount of time they have available for each appointment which poses significant challenges for doctors caring for patients with complex medical issues.

As a patient, there are a few things you can do to optimize the time you have available with your doctor which will give him/her more time to analyze your symptoms, create a treatment plan, and answer your questions.

If you feel too ill to work through the suggestions below, consider sharing this article with a friend or family member who can help.

How To Reduce Frustration From Doctor Appointments

1Schedule Your Appointment At The Optimal Time

To avoid long wait times, ask for the first appointment of the day or the first appointment after the doctor’s lunchtime.

Doctor appointments can be extremely tiring for those with chronic illness. Make sure you schedule plenty of rest before and after the appointment.

2Create A Current Medication List

The time needed for your nurse to review your medications can sometimes use up a portion of your medical appointment. An updated list will speed up this process.

This list should include:

  1. the name of each medication (including over-the-counter medications/supplements)
  2. the dose of the medication (often written in milligrams “mg”  or micrograms “mcg” on your bottle)
  3. how many pills of the medication you take each time
  4. when/how often you take this medication each day

For example; “Zyrtec 10mg, one pill, every morning” (which equals 1 pill a day) or “Ibuprofen 200mg, two pills, twice a day” (which equals 4 pills a day).

Bring your medication list to all of your doctor appointments. If this is your first appointment with a particular doctor, it is a good idea to actually bring your bottles of medications for verification.

If changes are made by your doctor, make sure to update your medication list. For example, draw a line through any discontinued medication(s) and document the stop date(s).

Keep an updated medication list in your purse/billfold for emergencies.

3Outline Your Symptoms

It is very important to prepare for each appointment by taking the time to outline your symptoms. This will help you answer your doctor’s questions with precise and accurate information which in turn provides him/her with the information needed to more quickly get to the bottom of your medical issues.

A few days before your appointment, write down your answers to the questions below and review them the day of your appointment.

Use your own language when describing your symptoms. For example, if you feel dizziness, describe this sensation in your own words rather than using the word “vertigo” because vertigo may not be what you are actually experiencing.

Questions To Answer:

  • What are your main symptoms?
  • Which two or three of these symptoms are the most bothersome?
  • How do they affect your daily life? Work? Hobbies? Be specific.
  • For each of your symptoms, ask yourself these questions:
    • Approximately when did it start? Did it precede any other symptoms?
    • Can you think of anything that may have triggered it?
    • Has this symptom changed over time or since your last appointment?
    • How often does this symptom occur?
    • Does it appear to be associated with any other symptoms?
    • Is it constant or intermittent?
    • Is there anything that makes it better or worse?
  • If you have pain/discomfort, ask yourself these questions:
    • Where is it located? Does it travel to a different body part? (It is often helpful to point to the location of your pain during your appointment so your doctor can see exactly where it is located.)
    • Approximately when did it start?
    • Can you think of anything that may have triggered it?
    • Has it changed over time or since your last appointment?
    • How often does it occur?
    • Is it associated with any other symptoms?
    • Is it constant or intermittent?
    • Is there anything that makes it better or worse?
    • How severe is your pain? Be honest, and don’t minimize or exaggerate it. On a scale of 1-10, “0” is no pain and “10” is the worst pain you could ever imagine
    • What type of pain are you experiencing? Here are a few examples:
      • Aching Pain (often a constant pain that may feel deep in your tissues, such as a toothache)
      • Dull Pain (often a constant pain which is not as severe as an ache)
      • Throbbing Pain (often a fairly constant pain that feels deep in your tissues and seems to almost have a heartbeat-like frequency to the pain)
      • Sharp/Stabbing Pain (an intermittent type of pain that feels like a sharp, quick, stab-like sensation and can be severe)
      • Cramping Pain (a pain that may come and go in waves and may feel like a squeezing sensation, such as abdominal, muscle, or menstrual cramps)
      • Burning Pain (often feels like a hot, searing type of pain)
      • Radiating Pain (a shooting, traveling pain which may be associated with tingling and/or numbness)
      • Pins and Needles (similar to the discomfort noticed when your leg “wakes up” after being “asleep”)
  • Have these symptoms/pain been previously evaluated by a doctor?
    • What tests were performed and what were the results? (bring a copy of the test results if possible)
    • What was the diagnosis? (bring a copy of the doctor’s note with the diagnosis if possible)
    • What treatments were prescribed? Did they help?

If you are attending a follow-up appointment, make sure to thoughtfully analyze how your symptoms may have changed since your last visit. Even if your symptoms have only slightly improved, it is important that your doctor is aware of this change which may indicate you are on the right path and more time or a more aggressive treatment is required.

4Write Down Your Questions

Write down your questions, in order of priority. This will ensure your most important questions get answered. (Sometimes a follow-up appointment is needed to address additional questions.)

Make sure to write down a quick summary of your doctor’s answers to your questions so you can more easily remember them at a later date. Even better, bring a friend or family member to your appointments to take notes.

5Do Not Diagnosis Yourself

Do not diagnosis yourself prior to your appointment. This may affect your ability to thoughtfully interpret and summarize your symptoms for your doctor.

If there is a diagnosis you are concerned about, share this with your doctor. You can state something like this, “One of the things I have been worried about is _________. Do you have any concerns that this could be going on?”

6Arrive Early For Your Appointment

Make sure you arrive 15-20 minutes early for your appointment (even if your doctor runs late). This provides enough time to fill out any clinic paperwork, review your answers to the symptom questions above, and for the nurse to “room” you (review your medication list and obtain your vital signs).

7Make Sure You Understand Your Doctor’s Recommendations

Ask questions if you don’t understand something your doctor is recommending. 

It can be helpful to repeat to the doctor (in your own words) what you think he/she is recommending. For example, you could say “Can I repeat what I think you are recommending to make sure I am understanding you correctly?” Then repeat to the doctor your interpretation of his/her recommendations. This will help to make sure you are both on the same page.

If any tests are ordered make sure you understand exactly how you will be notified of the results. In my opinion, it is best if you are notified by phone if there are any abnormalities/concerns. You should also receive a copy of the test result in the mail, (even if the result is normal). Bring this copy to your next appointment so you can review the result with your doctor and confirm there is nothing more to address.

If a new medication is recommended, ask the following:

  1. What condition(s) is it used for and what are you hoping it will do for me?
  2. How do I take this medication? How much? How often? For how long?
  3. Are there any side-effects I should be aware of? What do I do if I notice any of these side-effects?
  4. Is this a type of medication that can be stopped abruptly or does it have to be tapered off?
  5. Are there any potential interactions with this medication and my other medications?
  6. Will any labs or other tests be needed in the future to monitor my body’s response to the medication? If so, how often?

At the end of your appointment, find out when your doctor wants to follow-up with you and be sure to make that appointment before leaving the clinic.

Also, find out what symptoms or changes in symptoms would warrant a follow-up with your doctor earlier than scheduled.

Summary: 

Most physicians work in a clinic setting and with insurance regulations that restrict the amount of time they have available for each patient appointment.

These seven tips can help optimize the time you have available with your doctor which will provide your doctor with more time to get to the bottom of your symptoms, create a treatment plan, and answer your questions.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes ONLY and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis, or treatment by your physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances, or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before taking supplements or making a change to your medications, diet, or exercise regimen. Read our full disclaimer.

Today's the day to invest in YOU

Do you or a loved one…

Feel overwhelmed by chronic illness and don’t know what steps to take next?

Worry that your doctors don’t understand the impact of your illness or have enough time to help you?

Feel frustrated with the lack of understanding from family, friends, or colleagues?

Wonder if you will ever feel healthy again?

Struggle to stay motivated in keeping up with your daily medical “to dos”?

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