Patient satisfaction has more to do with communication between doctor and patient than with the skill of the physician. With that in mind, here are seven tips to help you get the most out of your next trip to the doctor’s office:
- Make a list. It has been said that doctors don’t like when patients come in with lists — it’s not true. A list is the best way to ensure all your needs are met. However, anticipate how much time each problem will take. If you have a list of 15 things, and we only have a 15 minute appointment, that means we have to cover each item in a minute or less. If you know you have a lot to discuss, then ask if you can book a longer appointment.
- Start with the most difficult issues first. Too often patients wait to the end of the appointment to bring up difficult or embarrassing issues. Research shows that patients who bring up difficult issues at the start of an appointment are more likely to be satisfied with the visit and to adhere to their doctor’s recommendations.
- Know your personal history. You will likely change insurances and doctors several times in your life, so it is critical that you have a copy of your medical history. For example, I saw a patient yesterday who claimed to have a history of melanoma — in fact he had a basal cell carcinoma — there is a huge difference. Giving the wrong history can affect your treatment, prognosis, and your ability to get insurance in the future.
- Know your family history. It is important in determining your risk of disease and can sometimes help diagnose a condition.
- Bring your medications. A typical exchange in my office: Me: “I am going to prescribe triamcinolone cream.” Patient: “Oh, I am using that already, Doc.” Me: “Well, let’s try fluocinonide cream then.” Patient: “No wait, flu-o-cino-something, yeah, that’s what I’m using now.” Me: “Are you sure it is not fluocinolone cream?” Patient: “Well, I don’t know. It’s definitely a cream though.” Two words: Not helpful.
- Ask questions. It’s important that you understand what was said and what you need to do. Ask for instructions in writing before you leave. If you realize you missed something after then visit, then call or email your doctor.
- Do your homework. It’s always helpful when you know about your condition. There are some great resources on the web and taking the time to learn will make you a better patient. Be cautious about self-diagnosing though (especially from pictures on the web!). It’s OK to ask questions of your physician, but it is rude to challenge them. Physicians spend tens of thousands of hours studying their field; be respectful of that — Google only makes it look easy. If you think your physician is wrong, then get a second opinion.
At your dermatologist’s office, don’t be afraid to mark spots on you that you want checked. Also, it can be helpful if you have pictures. Rashes change over time, so if you want me to see what it looked like at its worst, then take a few pictures. I actually had a patient who shot a short film of her skin problem — for the record, video is overkill (unless you bring Junior Mints, then it’s OK).
Post written by Jeffrey Benabio, MD. You might also like: