If you find yourself afraid of going to the doctor’s office, you’re not alone. A National Cancer Institute study found that some patients don’t go to the doctor because of concerns about communicating with their doctor.
If you are one of these people, behind the scenes knowledge can help you ease your worries and anxiety. Here are some tips to help navigate a visit, courtesy of doctors who see patients almost every day.
A doctor’s visit can release stressors out of your control. For example, the routine of stepping on the scale at the beginning of every appointment triggers fear in many people. Doctors say patients can ask not to be weighed, or to postpone the measurement. It’s okay to say, “I’d like not to be weighed before going to my doctor, and I’d like to discuss with them whether it’s necessary to know my weight today,” said Tracy Richmond, a pediatrician for pediatrics. and director of the eating disorder program at Boston Children’s Hospital.
Once the doctor enters the exam room, it can sometimes feel like you and the doctor have different agendas. You may have been thinking about that cough that just won’t go away, but the doctor asks a million questions about a mole on your arm. What can you do? Richmond said it’s helpful to explain your goals and priorities in advance. She said patients can say, “These are the things that are at the top of my priority list” [for this appointment]. … Are there things you think should be on my priority list?” That allows you and the doctor to have a list of items you know will be covered.
Maja Artandi, a professor of primary care and public health at Stanford University School of Medicine, suggested taking it even further by including a short, organized list of the top concerns to address during the visit. “As a GP I really want to understand what is most important to the patient before I start telling them about what is important to me. I think if the patient has a list and is prepared for the visit, that’s a good thing,” Artandi said. “If you want to make a list, I’d say focus on your top three concerns.”
When making the list, you may need a second or third appointment to discuss everything in depth, especially if there are several important topics. “We only have a limited amount of time and we may not be able to cover everything on the list,” Artandi said. “If someone really wants to tackle everything, he has to be willing to make a new appointment.”
She went to one doctor, then another and another
Writing down or stating your priorities ahead of time can also help avoid the disappointment of bringing up a problem in the last few minutes of a visit, only to feel like the doctor doesn’t have time to fully address the issue. to grab. “The worst thing for a clinician is when the main issue comes up at the end…then they say, ‘Oh no, how am I going to handle this appropriately when I have other patients waiting?’ [Stating concerns] candid and explicit makes it so much easier,” Richmond said.
You can also help increase the effectiveness of the visit by entering data. Do you have high blood pressure? Bring a log of your home blood pressure readings, if you have taken them. Taking multiple medications? Consider bringing the bottles in to discuss with your doctor. If that’s too much of a hassle, write down the names and doses you take to make sure they’re up to date on your medical record.
Most of all, doctors want to know if you feel like you may be having a harder time maintaining your health, so don’t exaggerate things in the discussion. “It’s about the patient’s health, not a report,” Artandi said. “It’s all part of the patient’s health journey. We’re here to help them, especially if they’re not doing so well.”
If you feel you are not being heard or are not sure whether you agree with what the doctor is suggesting, you can of course ask your doctor for other options or to see if his colleagues might have different thoughts.
Tammy Chang, an associate professor of family medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School, said it’s good for patients to ask doctors for the opinions of colleagues. “It’s the art of medicine,” she said. “There is rarely just one way forward,” she said. “And so I think empowering patients means giving patients options and hearing options from different perspectives. Doctors no longer work in isolation.”
And you can request a second opinion. While patients may worry that second opinion will upset their doctor, a good doctor should be comfortable with the idea. If not, it may be time to consider looking for someone new.
“I always tell my patients that they are the most important person — it’s their health that we’re concerned about. So if they need to ask questions, get a second opinion, or clarify something, it’s welcome,” Artandi said. “If the doctor finds this offensive, that’s definitely a red flag. We all work together as medical professionals to help our patients.”
In a change, patients can now read the clinical notes written by their doctors
Finally, some patients find that it can be difficult to follow everything the doctor says – either because there is simply too much information being provided or too much medical jargon. Chang suggested that you take notes during the visit — or even bring a friend or relative to take notes for you. And you can always ask your doctor to explain it in simpler terms if you don’t understand what they’re saying.
“It can be very complicated. And so we have to write things down and then if there’s a part that’s not right during the visit or after, the patient should never feel uncomfortable asking for clarification,” Chang said. “As a doctor, I really appreciate that.”
Under new federal rules, patients also have the right to view all doctor’s notes about their visits, often through online patient portals, so you can read and review what has been discussed.
Chang’s takeaway is that navigating appointments can be stressful, but going into a visit with information and expectations of what you want can help.
“I think it’s good for patients to understand that it’s really a collaboration,” Artandi said. “We as medical providers are really there to help our patients get the best health they can have, but it’s a partnership.”