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5 Ways To Have A More Productive Doctor’s Visit

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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 November 22, 2021

        Thanksgiving: It’s About The Simple Things

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        Thanksgiving: It’s About The Simple Things

        Thanksgiving, a day of pure gluttony, football, and possible uncomfortable situations with family members that you may or may not like. Oh, yeah, and the whole “know and reflect on what it is to be thankful and grateful.”

        During the holiday season many people forget what this time of year is bout and are too worried about getting the “early-bird” deals on Black Friday and making sure that they have the perfect gifts for their loved ones. I am sort of a “Grinch” when it comes to the holiday season, mostly because of that mentality by many of the poeple around me.

        But instead of being grinch-like this holiday season, I decided to simplify things and get back to what this time of year is actually is about; being thankful for what I have and what I can give.

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        Simplify

        I’m not a “minimalist” in any real sense, but in the last few months the talks of Patrick Rhone and others have got me to rethink my stance. Can you really have too much stuff?

        Absolutely.

        And with all that stuff comes the burden and the weight of it on your back.

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        If you feel that the things around you are out of control, maybe it’s time to simplify and be thankful and grateful for what you have and use. Here are a few things that you can do to simplify:

        • You know those gadgets in the drawer that you said you were going to sell? Well, time to get the listing on eBay and sell them. Or, send them to a place like Gazelle. Even if they are old and won’t get money, you can at least recycle them.
        • Get rid of things you don’t need. Like old books, clothes, tools, etc. Have something that’s been laying around forever with no use? Donate it to a charity or church. If you aren’t using it, someone else could be.
        • Find your productivity tools and stick with them. Use tools and gadgets that serve multiple purposes so you can simplify your tool set.

        Be Mindful

        You don’t have to be a master Buddhist or meditator to be mindful (although, it can definitely help). Being mindful comes down to being cognizant of the present and not keeping yourself in the past or future. It’s about living in the moment and being aware of yourself and everything around you. It’s just being.

        Without getting too “California” on you, it is super important to be mindful during the holiday rush. Rather than worrying about the things that you forgot at your house on the way to relatives or thinking about the next stop in your endless holiday travels, just breath and think about what you are currently doing.

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        Spend the time with your family and friends and don’t crush the moment. Try not to concentrate so hard on getting the perfect photo of the “awesome moment” of the day and actually miss the awesome moment.

        Being mindful over the holidays will help you be with your families, friends, and yourself allowing you to enjoy your time.

        Reflect

        As the year is coming to a close (yes, it really is that close!) it’s a great time to start reflecting on what you have accomplished and what you haven’t. Within the next few weeks we will have a more throrough reflection article here at Lifehack.org, but reflecting every now and then over your holiday break is a great way to see where you have been doing well in your life and where you need to improve.

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        Reflection shouldn’t be used to “get down” on yourself. Reflection should be used to take an honset inventory of what you have accomplished, how you handeled situations, and what you can do better. If you journal everyday (a daily form of reflection) it may be a good time to start going over some of the things that you have written and start to put together a year’s end journal entry. I mean, how else will you write your autobiography?

        But, seriously, reflecting on yourself makes you aware of your successes and faults and helps you plan and make goals for the coming year. It makes you a better person.

        So, while you are stuffing your face with bird, stuffing, and mashed taters’, remember that the holidays are much more than the superficial things. Use this holiday to become a better person.

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        Featured photo credit: Libby Penner via unsplash.com

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