Make the Most of Your Doctor Visit

Here's how to get your concerns addressed before your appointment flies by

Doctors today are spending more time with patients than they did 20 years ago. Back then, 70 percent of doctor visits were over in 15 minutes or less. Today, the average is 22 minutes.

That may seem like a luxury, but it's not. A lot needs to happen in that space of time. Your doctor needs to get to the root of your concern, while you may want to take time to set some background and ease into what's on your mind.

Getting to a happy middle ground is easier when you do some advance planning and preparation.

Make a list

Write down your top concerns and questions ahead of your appointment. Show it to the doctor first thing. This will help your doctor prioritize your time together. You're also less likely to forget something you wanted to ask about or have checked out.


Practice describing the vital details: your symptoms, what hurts or where you feel it, how often it bothers you, if it's affecting your daily life. It may seem silly, but rehearsing will help you focus on those bits of key information.

Be brave

Don't be afraid to bring up sensitive topics with your doctor. It may be a blow to your ego to admit that your muscles are feeling weaker, or that you fell down at home, but those are issues your doctor wants to hear about and can help you with. The same goes with any change in your sexual health or issues like incontinence or constipation. Never worry about surprising or shocking your doctor when discussing health concerns.

Bring backup

It may help to ask a trusted family member or friend to come with you, and give them a task to take notes during any discussion of a diagnosis or treatment. Give them permission to speak up and ask questions.

Don't Forget to Ask

Take this list to your next doctor visit

Is my blood pressure in a healthy range?

High blood pressure is one of the first signs of possible heart disease.

Do I need to lose or gain weight?

Ask about eating and exercise habits.

Should I be concerned about history?

Share family health history and your doctor can talk about preventing problems.

What screenings or tests do I need?

Medical tests can detect problems before you feel symptoms.

Do you recommend any changes to my daily life?

If your doctor hasn't asked about stress, mood, sex life, or alcohol and other drugs, take a breath and bring up these sensitive issues.