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5 Ways To Have A More Productive Doctor’s Visit

5 Ways To Have A More Productive Doctor’s Visit

Going to see the doctor can be a stressful experience. In ten to fifteen minutes you must explain your complaint, watch as your doctor examines you, then discuss the diagnosis and treatment plan. That’s a lot of information to absorb in a short period of time and it’s hardly surprising some patients leave their doctor’s office feeling bewildered.

The good news is that there are things that you can do to improve your experience at your doctor’s office, and these simple strategies can make a marked change in how you perceive the visit as well as your overall health outcomes. In this article we’ll discuss five such techniques for getting past the things you are probably doing wrong at your doctor’s appointment.

Write things down.

Studies have shown that patients cannot recall upwards of 40% of medical information that their doctor provided during a consultation. Yet, many patients don’t bring paper or pen nor do they ask their doctor to write down the details of their specific treatment plan.  The generic treatment handout is hardly a substitute for the detailed information the doctor provides during the visit.

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    It’s important to write the details down because medical errors are a fact of life.  Did the Doctor say 10mg of that medicine or 15mg?  Are you sure that the dose sent to the pharmacy is in fact correct and not just a typo made by an overworked and stressed medical professional?  Minor errors like these affect hundreds of thousands (ref) of Americans yearly, and are instantly and completely resolvable simply by writing things down and keeping your own records.

    You may also be able to significantly affect the outcome of your disease or injury through the simple act of taking psychological control of your health and keeping a journal of what your doctor said and how you plan to implement his recommendations. It’s remarkable how powerful writing things down can be.

    Pay attention to comments about lifestyle.

    Doctors spend countless hours telling their patients to pay attention to their lifestyle, to lose weight, to eat right, to take their blood pressure and diabetes medications as prescribed. Many patients simply ignore these recommendations and go on with their lives.

    If your doctor says you need to lose weight, you’d should ask how they recommend you do that rather than simply letting the comment pass.  If they say 30 minutes of exercise each day, then make a joint plan to do that, as well as a follow-up appointment when you can come back in and measure progress.   There’s a good chance that after listening to your question your doctor will be absolutely thrilled.  After all, how many patients take the time to engage with their physician and actually do what they are told?

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    Don’t expect a pill at every visit.

    Many patients expect a simple solution to their problems and nothing is simpler than popping a pill.  In many cases medication may not be required to resolve your problem, and the risk of side effects may outweigh the benefits. Doctors know this only too well, but may feel pressured by their patients who expect a pill as the outcome of the visit.

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      Before you agree to take a medication ask the doctor about the side effects, and question if the net benefit of the medicines outweighs the risks.  This simple candid question signals your willingness to not be one of “those people” who has to have pills when they are not needed and encourages your doctor to think of alternative therapies that could be used.

      One truly saddening side effect of our pill culture is addiction, and the number one controlled substance prescribed in the USA is OxyContin.  While it may seem like a good idea to get that script for a more powerful medicine just in case, or because your OTC medicine isn’t doing the job, avoid the temptation to use more powerful medicines unless they are absolutely required.  Remember, addiction is a terrifying force that wrecks homes and lives, and it all starts with that first pill.

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      Keep asking questions!

      Asking questions can be a highly effective way to turn a medical appointment into a productive time where both you and your doctor think of ways to better understand and treat your condition.  Questions focus your thoughts at a time when your natural tendencies to be distracted can overwhelm you.

      It’s always a good idea to come to the appointment with a list of questions written out and ready to go. I like to hand these to the doctor at the beginning of the appointment so they have a chance to really express their opinions on these points as we go, rather than waiting until the last five minutes.

      Be informed before the appointment.

      If you’re going to ask sensible questions during your appointment, you’ll probably need to do some research of your own before the appointment, particularly if it’s a follow up or a referral to a new doctor and you already have a preliminary diagnosis.

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        Researching medical conditions on the internet is a contentious issue as the amount of factual and accurate data out there is greatly outweighed by the mountains of “expert” opinions that can be found on almost very condition.  It’s important to use well curated resources such as WebMD, MedLine, as well as the websites of the major hospitals in the US such as the Mayo and Cleveland Clinic.

        The purpose of your research is not to challenge your doctor’s expertise by becoming an expert yourself.  It’s very easy to read a few short summary pages and think you can make a good diagnosis, but your doctor has years of experience in both the literature and the clinic to draw on, and is certainly in a better spot to answer questions.  You just need to be able to understand what’s being said so that you can make the best possible decisions in your own care, and research can help you do that.

        Featured photo credit: flickr via flickr.com

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        Colin Rhodes

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        Last Updated on February 18, 2019

        13 Tips to Face Your Fears, Grow with It and Enjoy the Ride

        13 Tips to Face Your Fears, Grow with It and Enjoy the Ride

        Fear. I spend my life talking about fear — fighting fears, fixing fears and understanding fears. And yet I doubt I get 10 calls a year from people saying “Mandie can you help me fix my fear?”

        Why is this so critically important to you?

        The realization for me is that fear is not the fundamental driving force in your life it’s what regardless of whether I’m talking to a doctor, a teacher, a CEO’s, a senior citizens or teenager – every single one of those conversations has a direct correlation with your world.

        Fear can range from the overwhelming desire to look away or stop in your tracks to literally fleeing your country and the life you knew. In this article, I will share you with 13 tips to face your fears and enjoy the ride.

        1. Know That Fear Is Real, but Can Be Overcome

        Right now around the world people are facing fear — real fear. Fear that I pray my children and I will never experience. Does that lessen my fears or your fears in your relativity safe 21st century life?

        When I look at the world we all live in, I find that fear like so many other emotions can mean so many different things to so many different people:

        • The child who has to be physically dragged to their first day of school.
        • The man facing the judge.
        • The woman with her hand poised over the buttons over her phone because she has to walk down a dark corridor late at night alone.
        • The man as the surgeon says “count backwards from 10 Mr Smith.”
        • The woman that’s told “We are sorry, we can’t help you.”
        • The man that faces the empty circle of a gun and prays for his very existence.

        These and a million more (Portrayed in every kind of movie, book or song you could imagine) are what make us human. We face fear and somehow move forward or are stopped in our tracks.

        Like the rabbit in the headlights of the car that veers off through the field away from the tyres of the car or stays still praying for salvation. Like someone will save them. Sound familiar?

        Fear is huge. Fear is everywhere and yet fear can be overcome, controlled and can even be a power for good.

        2. Accept Your Fear

        Firstly if you aren’t facing the barrel of the gun, atrocities that make the news or impeding death, that’s a good start. However it doesn’t mean your fear is any less real.

        We are quick to say “I can’t moan, my life is not as bad as X.” While in theory, that’s honorable your appreciation of Mr. or Mrs. X’s horrific life won’t change anything directly. So accept your fear is relative to you.

        And here’s what can be done.

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        3. Get Some Perspective

        I found myself asking anyone that would answer “what is your worst fear”. The answer that intrigued me the most came from my daughter (15 years old and she usually has a copy of Fight the Fear – my book – in her school bag so she can help someone else be as positive and confident as her. No matter what life throws up.)

        And her fear, surprised me — heights. I pointed out that we live in a sprawling bungalow (one storey) and the highest she goes is two storeys’ at school! She laughed but added, fear isn’t like that Mum. I know it’s not a real fear, but it’s like when you stand on a chair and feel unsafe.

        That girl will go far. Because she truly gets fear.

        We know something is scary and yet we still do it. Why? Because we have a perspective to the fear. When you lose perspective, it can feel too big, and too scary.

        So look around you to get some perspective on your fear:

        • Are you really at risk?
        • Will this kill you?
        • Which leads us on to..
        • If the worse was to happen what would it be?

        4. Hold a Hand

        As a coach, it is my job to holds someone’s metaphorical hand and help them face a fear.

        Like the child petrified of the thunder storm or the teen that can’t get back in a car again after failing their test, your job as a parent is to reassure, encourage, enable and motivate someone to face something that ideally they never would choose to again.

        We know many of our fears aren’t real. However, it is only when someone guides us with love, respect, lack of judgement and safety are we able to get through fear. And trust me, you can get through your fears. I’ve seen it so many times.

        Ask yourself:

        • If the worse were to happen, what would that be?
        • Could that really happen?
        • If the worse did happen, how would you recover?
        • If the worse were to happen, what would you need to do next?

        By seeing fear as not the end destination but part of being human, you can see through it’s wily evil ways and move forward.

        5. Know Whose Hand You Hold Either Physically or Emotionally

        This helps with fears for the rest of your life.

        Think of someone you can always rely on (and ideally you won’t just answer yourself because that adds a lot of pressure to your existence!) And you will find that you’ve already found a way to get through fear.

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        The beauty of this is that it means that fear becomes part of life not something to be feared and shied away from.

        It means you know you can turn to your friend, partner, colleague, parent, sibling and say “Right I need to deal with this, and I’m going to need you to help me.”

        For one moment, think about it from the other person’s view point. When we get to help other people we feel valued, loved, respected and lots of other positive emotions and we get a good dose of positive chemicals setting off in our bodies too.

        Your fear, and your determination to fight it, helped someone else too. Now that’s cool right?

        6. Understand That There Are Some Things Fear Will Never Touch

        I like to find role models in life — people who have faced heroism, history changing moments, war, atrocities, miracles, life saving inventions.

        Not everyone was looking for greatness, however they all found it. And one of my favourite books to date is written about Alistair Urquhart, the forgotten highlander. If this doesn’t get turned into a film in the future, then no man’s story is likely to.

        Alistair went through the most horrific experiences in the 2nd world war. If you think of one of the awful things that happened back then in our world, Alistair went through at least 3 of them! Asked afterwards how did you cope? He talked about how whatever they did to his body, no matter how they starved, tortured, threatened or mocked him, they couldn’t have his mind. In his mind he was free.

        Of all the people’s voices I’ve heard in my head over the years, this is one of those statements that reminds me anything is possible if you have faith and hope.

        Look for the things in life that fear can’t touch. They will create confidence and faith for the future, whatever you face. And they will give you a sense of why being you is awesome.

        Of all the billions of people on this planet, no one will have an answer identical to yours!

        7. Process Your Fears to Carry on with Life

        Being brave is not about sticking your chest out and smiling regardless of what hell you endure. It is about finding a way to emotionally process your fears to be able to keep going.

        I have a tool kit of things I can rely on – tools, strategies, techniques. They include people to hug or talk to, music. hobbies, walks on the beach and even my favourite food. It sounds mad but at the times where I have questioned “how will I get through this?” I’ve found immense joy in doing the most unlikely of thing that makes me smile.

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        It may be a short lived moment of happiness. However, it reminded that nothing stays the same and I can find away.

        One client told me that it was crazy when it felt like their world was falling around their ears to run a bath to the brim (you don’t waste water) get the best bath oils, light too many candles, lock the door and drink a glass of bubbly (champagne is only for special occasions.)

        Did that moment fix the disaster that my clients life felt? No, however it gave them a moment of calm and the brain is far quicker to find solutions, resolve and motivation to keep going when you do that.

        It may feel like madness to do something you love, however it can be a powerful way to help you find solutions to the fears you face in life.

        8. Assume the Worse

        If you read the statement from the client above. Notice how they assumed it was wrong to fill the bath up to the top? How bubbly is only for special occasions?

        Think how naughty they felt to be doing something that was not allowed?

        • Think about what age it may have made them feel?
        • Think about how they feel about champagne?
        • What special moments it’s been a part of in their lives?

        And you can see how the assumptions they made about their “right” to have these things was not healthy.

        When I drag the assumptions out of people’s words for them to see, they are often struck by how negative the words make them feel.

        Don’t assume your words aren’t impacting on you. You can go through fear and actually enjoy the ride when you take the time to understand how you are letting words get to you.

        9. Take a Fear That Feels Insurmountable Right Now.

        If you were to repeat it to me out loud, what would you say?

        Would you have blame on yourself in there? Would you assume others can do it and it’s just you? Would you feel small, unsuccessful, useless, unworthy?

        Usually, when you do this exercise, you are able to spot the untruths that run wild in your head convincing you that you are doomed. And rarely when we are faced with our assumptions is there is a lot of evidence to them.

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        10. You Are Not Defined by Your Fear

        One fear does not define your life – be mindful of that. It is likely to lead you to thinking of all the times you’ve succeeded and bring a moment of calm, confidence and faith back to you.

        11. Go with Fear

        When you learn to go with fear, you could find yourself actually having fun, no seriously – having fun.

        I have a few amazing clients I’m working with right now who would describe themselves as life long worriers, or pessimists. In the past that has served them well, enabling them to keep safe, steer clear of risks and even develop strategies in the event of disasters. However, now they find it’s becoming hard to break the cycle and they really want to because it’s holding them back.

        Notice how they’ve found their hidden fears and want to face them?

        One client said “I knew this was going to be tough, and I knew I couldn’t fight it alone and I knew you would be the one to help me.” Before I sat an incredibly successful, confident, capable business owner with a family and a social life to die for.

        However, I’ve learned that the most successful looking lives can hide things that impact on life, success, love, happiness and business.

        We didn’t start with the fear that they felt was holding them back, we broke the fear down, and found lots of little obstacles that had been deemed as “life” and “unchangeable” and “that’s just the way it is” by developing awareness to the little steps on the road to their obstacles to happiness and success they were able to tackle them in a different way.

        12. Discover Great Skills in Your Scary Moments

        And in that clients words “I came here to work with you to grow my company, and my own personal skills. I didn’t expect to get the children to be cleaning up after themselves and my partner being more attentive! It all feels a little magic.”

        The moral is that out of the scariest of moments, we can find great skills we didn’t know we had. Find better, healthier, happier ways to live and find ways to enjoy life more. (And have a bit of magic!)

        What a great place to be in ready for the next fear that thinks it’s going to get in the way of you, right?

        13. Own Your Fear

        Think back over these tips and come up with at least one example for each one. Write them down. Put them on your phone. Turn them into a piece of art. Turn them into a poem. Frame them. Go for a fast walk across the fields, beach, down town and repeat these things in your head to the sound of your feet on the ground.

        We rarely take the time to appreciate how far we have come, how much we can achieve or what we are capable of – by really owning the tips in this article you will have given your brain a big fat dose of “Damn right I can do this!” and the motivation and accountability to say “Let’s find a way” through any fear.

        You can’t help but feel good when you see that can you? And fear doesn’t stand a chance, does it?

        More Resources About Fighting Fear

        Featured photo credit: Ben White via unsplash.com

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