5 Tips to Ace your Doctor Visit

doctor visit

doctor visit

Sadly, when working on a medical pedestal, the person that is most important in that transaction is usually pushed to the side…… the patient

So I get this question from my patients all the time,

Danelle what  do I tell my Doctor when I see him?


It seems like when I go to see him my pain is gone, so I don’t know what to say!

Everyone has had this experience at a doctor's visit. And I can tell you if you have, you understand the frustration of not being able to communicate with the person that is helping you.

The medical profession historically have been very successful in being placed on a high pedestal; we tend to hold all the the air and light in the room. Not intentionally so - well at least for the most part. However,  it’s a very intimidating place to be for a patient who wants to get information and doesn't know or understand much of medical jargon.  After all, how do you dare ask this God walking among humans what ‘a scope’ means or how ‘effusion’ ended up in your joint? Not to mention most Doctors rarely spend more than 10 minutes with you...

Sadly, when physicians are held in such high esteem, the downside usually is that patients leave the Doctor’s office in unadulterated awe…. but with absolutely no idea of what happened or any true understanding of their condition. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard - “ Yes, the Doctor said i have this..but what does that mean.. why do I have this pain?” Sadly, when working on a pedestal, the person that is most important in that transaction is usually pushed to the side...... the patient .

Sadly, when working on a medical pedestal, the person that is most important in that transaction is usually pushed to the side...... the patient

Additionally, the healthcare system doesn't make it any easier... but that's another blogpost for another day.

So here's the best way out of that blur that can be a doctor's visit

1. Write down all your questions

Sometimes your problem doesn’t become clear until you start talking about it, which is normal. But when you see a Doctor, you’re rarely in his/her presence long enough to drink 2 sips of you coffee, far less think out your issue. So the time to do that is before you get there.

This will help to clarify your thoughts and your major issues. Also it will eliminate the need to remember everything on the spot when your Doctor whizzes into the room.

Here are some good tips

  1. Write down the things you have pain with
  2. Write down the things you can’t do
  3. Write down what you want to do
  4. Write down anything that confuses you.

Now remember - your time is limited with your MD, so this is not 20 questions. Pick the most important questions that you need answered  and focus on those.

2. Do your research

A lot of providers bemoan the use of ‘Dr. Google’ - understandably so because some people try to use it to replace a professional diagnosis. My opinion differs - just like you look at Carfax to get a base understanding of a car’s features so that you can talk to a car dealer from a more educated standpoint, doing some research on your condition can help you to ask better questions with your Doctor when you see them.

So I actually think it is helpful - with a grain of salt of course! Google or any online forum is there to give you information - not a diagnosis. Just bear in mind that the things you read online are flat descriptions of conditions that may or may not apply to you -  that’s the point of getting a professional to diagnose you.

So do some light research before so that you have a framework of what questions to ask your doctor.

Very important note: it is essential that you use credible sources of information. Personal blogs, facebook groups and opinion columns are not the place to get individualized medical information. Believe me - I’ve seen it firsthand where people put up an MRI report and ask the public for a diagnosis. Clear and obvious dangers in getting your information there - leave the diagnosis for the guys who did 7+ years of medical school to do that for you. Look for reliable sources , such as a trusted medical provider’s blog, Webmd, Medline.gov or a scholarly article. Having trouble understanding a particular source of information? - print it out and take it with you to your appointment.

3. Send all of your medical information ahead of time.

Make sure you share your medical history with your doctor before your visit. If you have been referred by someone else, call the medical records  department and have them fax over your file to your Doctor a couple days before your appointment. Also remember to include all your providers - your physical therapist’s report or GP ‘s report is important for your doctor to get a full 360 view of your condition. Remember - they handle thousands of pieces of paper, so it may take some time for that fax to get to your chart. Also if you have any imaging reports - MRI's, X-rays, CT scans  - send those over too along with the actual images on film or CD.

Even better- make sure you have a copy of your records so that you can bring it in  with you on the day of your visit.

4. Let your Doctor know you have questions right away.

Stop your Doctor before he starts talking!!

This  is probably one of my more important ones. Patients usually get overwhelmed and forget about all the good preparation they did before the actual visit- or sometimes they are in so much pain they forget. Hopefully you’re not waiting till you’re on your deathbed before going to the Doctor, so the best thing to do is to stop him/her before he starts talking. Doctors are usually in a hurry - so if you want to talk, you may have to slow him/her down.

The best way? " Hey Dr. Smith, before we get started I had a few questions I need to ask you to understand what's going on."

5. Ask your Doctor what happens next?

So many people leave the Doctor and have no idea of what their plan is. Sometimes that can mean being referred to specialist care (physical therapy, speech, orthopedics etc)  or may just involve a prescription of medications with a follow up in 6 weeks. Either way, you should leave there understanding what the entire course of taking care of your problem looks like. So make sure to ask before he/ she exits the room

Bonus - Make sure you understand  ALL your options moving forward. Most Doctors will refer you to providers that they have a relationship with, but understand that you have a choice to go to any provider that best suits you. Sometimes doing a little research on that helps, and the nurses can be knowledgable in giving you options.

So summary - communication is key to acing a Doctor's visit. They have godly skills, but are human just like you and me. So be patient and friendly, but be clear and  plan ahead!

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Danelle Dickson PT, DPT, OCS

Danelle Dickson PT, DPT, OCS

Physical Therapist at Performance Plus Physical Therapy
Danelle Dickson received her Bachelor’s Degree in Biology from Morgan State University in 2003, then her Doctorate Degree in Physical Therapy from the University of Delaware in 2007. After graduating, she earned her  Board Certified Orthopedic Clinical Specialist Certification in 2012. She is continually increasing her knowledge base with post graduate continuing education from manual based courses such as Institute of Physical Arts and St. Augustine courses. Additionally, she has also presented research at local (APTA) and international (IADMS) conferences on dancers, and has published her research with Journal of Dance Medicine and Science.

Danelle combines her 10+ year of clinical, research, and administrative experience  to produce a well rounded, patient driven experience at Performance Plus Physical Therapy. She currently works with patients with orthopedic, sports and Performing arts conditions, along with taking care of the local dance population, and mentoring local physical therapy students as a clinical instructor.
Danelle Dickson PT, DPT, OCS

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