“Just one more thing….”

July 13th, 2009

Ever had the experience of going to the doctor filled with questions and yet returning home with few if any answered? As a physician assistant with 8 years of hands on clinical experience, I am loathe to admit that at times I too made the hasty exit from a patient room without stopping to see if there were more questions. Let me assure you, it’s not a personal affront. Most times the hasty exit is due to the fact that we clinicians are running behind schedule and have other patients waiting in other exam rooms. Still, that is no excuse not to give the patient before us our undivided attention.

But as a patient, you can maximize your office visits and make sure that all of your concerns are addressed. Having now been on both sides of the table, I share these tips with you to tell you what has worked for me as a clinician and as a patient.

Come Prepared. The reality is that many clinicians are overbooked. While this should not be the case, it is and I doubt offices are going to change this practice anytime in the near future. So with that in mind as much as possible, have your questions ready and written down before you meet with your clinician. This will maximize time and ensure that all your concerns are addressed.

Preface the visit with, “I have several concerns that I’d like to discuss.” This lets your clinician know right away that you have questions you’d like answered and believe it or not, they are more inclined to direct their undivided attention to you. You can also say “I have questions that I’d like answered before you leave,” thereby putting them on notice not to make any hasty exits.

Bring Another Person with You. Having a spouse or other support present expands the conversation. They can remind you of issues that you may have forgotten and the added set of ears can help you recall details and instructions once you return home. Additionally, have them take notes while you speak to your clinician and periodically reflect back what is discussed.

These seemingly simple suggestions can truly maximize your time with your clinician. It also reduces the feeling that your concerns are not important and that they have already moved on before they have even left the room.

One point that must be made. If your are continuously subjected to lengthy waits in the waiting room, the hasty exit persist and lack of attention to your concerns and requests are repeatedly ignored, you may need to consider changing clinicians. Remember, your clinician works for YOU! And if they are not meeting your needs, take your business elsewhere. Your time is just as valuable as theirs and if they cannot respect you, they don’t deserve your business-now matter how “renowned in their field” or “respected” they are in the community.

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