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How To Maximize Limited Time With Your Doctor

Tell The Doctor Everything That He Or She Needs To Know

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Medical schools do not teach mind reading.

Describe everything that is different about you since your last visit.

  • Include new medications and treatments - even if you they don't seem to relate to what the doctor i's treating you for. The change could be related to your medical condition or to a medicine you are taking. Let the doctor make that decision. 
  • Describe all your symptoms since the last appointment -- including the personal ones or ones you find embarrassing that you may be reluctant to talk about.
    • Include how each symptom affects your ability to work or to do the activities of your daily living. [Be sure the doctor notes this information in your record. It will become important if you ever want to apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), a disability program at work, or Disability Income Insurance].
    • Survivorship A to Z provides a Symptoms Chart which can help keep track of your symptoms. When you push a button, the information turns into a fast-to-read chart.
  • Tell about any new stress you are feeling. Information about what is happening in your life may be useful medically, whether it's a major change, stresses, a divorce, or the death of a loved one.
  • Tell the the doctor is you haven't been sticking to your agreed drug, nutrition, exercise or rest regimen. The doctor will otherwise expect that you have been sticking to the plan. 
  • If money for treatments, tests, drugs or even the doctor is an issue --always mention it. There are lots of different things the doctor can do to help you save money -- including cutting his or her fee, giving you free samples or generic versions of drugs, and ordering less expensive tests.

Areas to talk about at least once

  • Pain priorities: Let your doctor know your priorities when it comes to pain. For example, whether it is more important that you be clear headed at work, or that you have no pain if at all possible.
  • Hearing: If hearing is a problem, tell your doctor. If necessary, explain whether you prefer your doctor speak louder or speak more slowly.
  • Your prognosis (what can happen in the future and when): Let your doctor know how much you do, or do not, want to know about your health condition.
  • Complementary therapiesHow you feel about complementary therapies.
  • Whether there are physical or nutritional changes you could do that would affect your health.
  • End-of-life issues such as whether you are more interested in quality compared to quantity of life. Keep in mind that this discussion is not  about your diagnosis. Things happen. (See Enforcing Living Wills And Other Advance Directives.)

Guidelines for talking with your doctor

  • Be brief. Let the doctor ask questions if he or she wants to know more.  
  • Be direct -- not indirect. 
    • The doctor can't read your mind so don't ask him or her to. 
    • You may be used to underplaying your symptoms or your concerns with friends and people at work. Now is not the time.

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