The doctor’s office is an intimidating place. The long wait in the crowded lobby, the busy nurses, and the cold exam rooms all conspire to put you on edge. Then you have to face the scale, the frightening pamphlets, and the silent wait for the door to fly open and the doctor to pop in. No wonder many patients walk out of a checkup as clueless as they walked in!
The key to making the most of your doctor’s visit is communicating with your primary care physician (PCP). They can’t give you sound advice if they don’t know what you are going through. And you can’t implement their suggestions if you don’t understand or remember them. Fortunately, there are strategies you can use to make your checkup a useful and empowering experience.
Develop a relationship
Your PCP should not be seen as a stranger who makes you nervous or uncomfortable. They are a real person who can be a powerful ally in your quest for health and fitness. If you change jobs and/or insurance providers often, it can be difficult to keep the same PCP throughout your life. But that shouldn’t keep you from approaching whomever your current doctor is as a helpful partner. Changing your mindset will change the way you communicate.
Write down your concerns
Despite your best intentions, you might still find yourself drawing a blank once you are face to face with that white coat. So before you leave for your appointment, write down all the concerns and issues you want to discuss. A good doctor will be more than happy to go through your list with you.
Ask, ask, ask
There is no such thing as a stupid question, so if you are concerned about something, ask. Your PCP has heard it all before. If they say something you don’t understand, ask them to clarify. Don’t be embarrassed, explaining is part of what they do. If they suggest a behavior change or treatment that you know won’t fit in your life, ask for alternatives. They may come up with something else that will work for you.
Health and body issues can be embarrassing. Everyone wonders if the way their body works and the way they take care of it is normal. But telling your PCP what you think they want to hear can be dangerous. Your doctor can’t help you if they don’t know the real you. Better to risk a little embarrassment now in order to head off a health disaster in the future.
Claim the time and attention you deserve
A big part of the intimidation factor at the doctor’s office is the rush. Don’t feel guilty about taking up your PCP’s time! Your health is just as important as all of those other patients in the waiting room, and they’re going to wait too long regardless. You are here for a reason, so get the care that you (or your insurance) paid for.
Communicating well with your primary care physician is key to using an annual wellness visit or occasional checkup as an effective tool for your health. Try these tips to help you say what you need to and get the answers you deserve.