Get More from Your Next Doctor Visit

Use these M.D. approved suggestions

close up on a woman doctor

The amount of time a patient gets to spend with a doctor averages about 10 minutes. Delays and interruptions can squeeze your facetime even further. A bit of organizing before you contact your caregiver’s office can help. Try these insider strategies, recommended by physicians, to get the information and attention you need at your next visit.

Schedule smartly
When you call for an appointment, let the scheduling person know if you have something specific to discuss with your doctor. Mention any tests you might need. This way the office can build more time into your visit.

Prep while waiting
The average time spent in the doctor’s waiting room is 20 minutes. Use that time to think about any questions or concerns you have. Write them down if that helps you remember. Put your most serious questions at the top of the list. Make a note of any symptoms you’re feeling and when they started.

Ask away
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If your doctor says something you don’t understand, ask him or her to repeat it or explain it in plain language. Even if you think it’s a “stupid” question, ask. You can be sure your doctor has heard the question before.

Be honest
Your doctor might ask personal questions that make you feel uneasy or nervous. But remember that details like alcohol use or sexual history can be important. Try not to feel embarrassed. Nothing you say will shock your doctor. Even financial concerns can be worth mentioning.

Note medications
If you are taking any medications, vitamins or supplements, tell your doctor. Make a list if you think you might forget. This is important information, especially if your doctor has to prescribe new medicine for you. If you are given a new prescription, be sure you understand the directions or any special instructions.

Share tests
If you’ve had any lab tests since your last visit, tell your doctor or nurse. Your primary caregiver’s office needs to have a copy of the results. If you’ve seen another doctor or specialist, let your primary physician know.

Take notes
There’s nothing wrong with writing down things your doctor tells you. It’s easy to forget, especially when you’re not feeling well or have health concerns on your mind.

Hold the phone
Turn off your phone. Believe it or not, some people answer their phone during their exam. Answering a call takes away time from your visit. Chances are any calls can wait until your appointment is over.

Talk to a nurse
If your doctor isn’t available, ask if you can talk to or make an appointment with a nurse or physician assistant. They are a valuable source of information.

Consider a female physician
Visits with female doctors tend to last 2 minutes longer than appointments with male doctors, according to a study at Johns Hopkins.