Doctors Shouldn't Do All The Talking

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by David Seeley, MD

You're not feeling good so you make an appointment to see your doctor. During the examination, you simply answer the questions that the doctor asks, and you're on your way. Good visit, right?

No, say many doctors. You, too, should be doing the talking.

Gone are the days of doctors making house calls, but patients should still feel as comfortable with their doctors in their offices as they would feel in their own homes. And that comfort must include the ability to ask questions.

Taking an active and responsible role in your health care is vital to your health. You are the only one who knows how you feel, how your body reacts to certain things, what hurts, etc. If you aren't completely open with your doctor, he may fail to give an accurate diagnosis.

Even though it may seem as though the doctor is too busy to talk to you, it is your right and responsibility to be sure to share your concerns. Dr. Joyce Mobley, A CIGNA HealthCare of Arizona physician agrees that doctors may be pressed for time, but that there are ways to make the office visit productive.

Dr. Mobley suggests that the patient make good use of the visit and be organized with what he wants to talk about.

"It is OK to bring in notes, ask questions and keep asking until you are comfortable with the answer," says Dr. Mobley. "You should feel like you can rely on your doctor to answer any medical and health questions you may have." (source: Mayo Clinic)

Here are some suggestions when preparing for an office visit:

1. Arrive on time.

2. Know your medical history: Your previous medical conditions and those of blood-related family members are important. Be prepared to discuss them in detail with your doctor.

3. Bring a list of concerns: Once you are in the doctor's office, it is easy to forget health issues you want to discuss. A list will jog your memory, but keep it brief. Include only issues of primary concern.

4. Bring your medications: Show your doctor all your medications in their original bottles. This will allow him to see the dosage and type of drugs you are using.

5. Answer questions accurately and completely: Your physician needs facts on which to base an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. Don't speculate on your diagnosis.

6. Speak up: If you have questions or doubts about your diagnosis and treatment, express them. For example, your doctor should explain the benefits of a medication, its possible side effects and how long it will take to work. Don't leave until all your questions have been addressed and resolved.

7. Talk about your habits: To understand you better, your doctor needs to learn about you as a person. For instance, you should talk about your eating and sleeping habits.

It is also important to take notes while you visit your physician, as it can be difficult to remember all the information you receive. Further, you should request literature pertaining to your illness or disease to gain a better understanding. Most health-care centers provide brochures and resource information that can supplement the physician's information.

The key to staying healthy is to take a proactive stance by inquiring about preventive measures that will enhance your health. Here are some preventive questions to consider asking your physician.

1. Should I get a flu shot, pneumonia shot or any other immunizations?

2. How often should I have a breast or prostate examination?

3. Would changing my diet or exercise habits prevent specific diseases?

Communication plays a vital role in the diagnosis process. Keep in mind that the discussions that take place between you and your physician are confidential. To have a successful relationship with your physician, it is important to address sensitive subjects.

In addition, there are other health-care professionals involved in serving your health-care needs such as nurses, physician assistants and pharmacists. These professionals most likely could answer some of your questions and concerns as well.

Your physician strives to provide you with a positive health-care experience. The goal is to offer you the information and health-care tools that can help you and your family stay healthy. So be sure to do a lot of talking. It's absolutely, positively, the right thing to do.

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