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How do I communicate with my doctor?

Hi Dr. Daliah. Could you give me any advice on how to communicate with my doctor. I have an HMO and my selection of physicians is very limited. Whenever I see a provider, they don’t spend more than a minute with me. How can I be diagnosed appropriately when they hardly spend anytime in the exam room. Are there any techniques to get a doctor to stop and listen?

–Anonymous

I hear this all to often and it is a rising concern. With managed care, many physicians are forced to see multiple patients throughout the day resulting in less one-on-one patient time. The hour long doctor visit has slowly become a thing of the past and the 15 minute average appointment time is shrinking as well. With physician reimbursement continuing to drop, more patients visits are required to maintain costs, so it feels like the doctor visit is over in a blink of eye.

However it doesn’t have to be. I recommend that all patients have their thoughts collected and ready to present to the doctor. Moreover, if you are only going to have time for one issue, choose the issue that’s the most pressing. When the nurse brings you into the room and asks you the reason for your visit, avoid the general term “follow up” but explain to her a more specific reason such as “chest pain” or the “blood pressure medicine may not be working”.

Its also important to bring your medicine bottles to your visit. This also ensures the medication list in your chart is properly updated and you can request refills while you are there.

Sometimes the nurse or office staff can give you advice on when to schedule your appointment. Its been rumored that the first appointment or last appointment of the day allows for a little more wiggle room. Ideally, it would be beneficial to ask the doctor as well when is a better time to approach more involved subjects if he is pressed for time that day.

However, it ultimately comes down to you feeling comfortable with your provider. Your health comes first and you need to feel you can get your concerns addressed. If your friends or family recommend a physician, that could be a good start in choosing the right provider. Moreover, many coworkers share the same insurance, so inquiring who any of them prefer may help as well. Communication is the key to a good doctor-patient relationship and your health depends on it. Feel empowered that you have a choice and exercise your right to make one.

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Author:

Nationally Syndicated Radio Host, Board Certified Family Medicine Physician, Assistant Professor Touro University Nevada

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