5 Ways To Make Your Doctor Listen To You

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Patient Tiffani Joyner and Anthony Terracina, MD

When you are struggling with pain or discomfort, the last thing you want is a primary care doctor, surgeon, or specialist who swoops into the consultation, does a cursory examination, and then breezes out of the room – leaving you with vague assurances and unanswered questions. Going to a medical appointment is stressful enough without having to deal with a dismissive doctor.

No patient should ever be blown off during an appointment. If your primary care or specialist physician is not really listening to you, here are five tips for making your doctor slow down and hear you out:

  1. Get to the Point
    Don’t waste your time and confuse your doctor with long stories or complicated lists of symptoms. Start your conversation out on the right track by getting right to the point: “I’m here today because ______________.” A strong introduction to the purpose of your visit will help your physician get to the underlying cause of your pain.
  2. Address One Problem at a Time
    Unfortunately, most doctor’s appointments are scheduled for no more than 30 minutes. In order to ensure that you get the most of your physician during the appointment, move through your complaints (if you have more than one) one at a time for clarity and efficiency. If you feel that you may need more than the normally allotted time to review your health concerns, tell the office manager in advance when scheduling your appointment. The front desk may be able to make a note that you need more time with the physician. If you can’t get around to all of your concerns in one visit, schedule another one! Your health is important and you should be proactive in addressing any and all of your concerns.
  3. Use Clear Language
    During your visit be prepared to describe your symptoms in the clearest terms possible. You should be able to convey how long you have had the health concern, what the symptoms are, how long the symptoms last, and how severe your symptoms are. Remember, sharing this information with your physician helps them ask the right questions and focus in on what may be ailing you.
  4. Don’t Exaggerate
    Have you heard the story of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf”? Patients who always describe their pain in the most superlative terms will most likely be written off by their physician as “histrionic.” Try to describe your pain in a level-headed and realistic way instead of inflating your concerns.
  5. Speak Up
    Let your doctor know if you feel rushed or ignored. Physicians can be busy, but there is no excuse for a patient to feel jilted or inadequately cared for. Don’t be afraid to tell you doctor directly if you feel like you’re not getting their full attention or if you think they may be brushing aside or minimizing your concerns.

If you always leave the doctor’s office angry or frustrated with the lack of communication, it is probably time for you to find a physician who listens to you. A good relationship with a primary care physician is especially important. Your family doctor can help ensure that you receive the most comprehensive and cohesive care available, and, when necessary he or she can also help you find the best specialists and surgeons available in your region.

+ Ready for a physician who takes the time to listen to you? Find an expert primary care physician here.

Source: “How to make your doctor listen” www.consumerreports.org

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