As a practicing primary care doctorstipsonline, I continue to work incredibly hard on making my bedside manner even better so that patients feel heard. The other reason is because as most doctors learned in medical school 90 percent of getting the right diagnosis comes from taking a good history from a patient.
Unfortunately with shorter doctor office visits and doctors interrupting patients within 23 seconds of starting, you need to know how to get your concerns across. While I don’t believe this is the responsibility of patients, the reality is not everyone has access to doctors with great bedside manner.
How to talk to your doctor is quite easy if you follow these simple steps.
Set the agenda. Before you go into the doctor’s office, decide what you want to discuss. Are you there for a physical and to receive preventive care and tests? Do you have new problem that needs a medical evaluation or an ongoing problem that requires follow-up or further treatment? If you want to talk about four concerns, tell your doctor at the beginning of the visit that you want to talk about four items and list them, without going into too much detail at first. Be sure to indicate which one is the most important to you.
Bring up the most important concern you have first and not at the end of the visit as you are about to leave. We find this extremely frustrating and maddening. This will help the doctor enormously as he determines how much time to spend on each problem and how to pace the office visit. If you leave a surprise at the end of the visit, the doctor may not spend adequate time to address your issue.
Write up a list of problems and questions you wish to discuss and make the number manageable. If at all possible, I recommend tackling no more than four concerns in your office visit, especially if the four are new problems never before evaluated by your doctor. The goal is not to cram in as many problems as possible in a visit, but rather to get the most out of the visit by getting an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. The aim is quality, not quantity.
After setting the agenda, next go into detail into each problem with the 4 W’s the When, What, Where, and Why.
Ask your doctor which problem he wants to tackle first. Alternatively, you can just begin by talking about each problem in depth. Always tell your problem the same way you might tell a story. Start in chronological order. Give it a beginning, a middle, and an end. Understanding your problem is far easier to follow if you do it this way. While this may seem obvious, you’d be surprised how many patients don’t start at the beginning. They talk about their symptoms in no particular order and blurt out whatever thoughts enter their heads.
To help you organize your thoughts, use the Four Ws – the when, what, where, and why. The Four Ws help enhance your story to make sure that important details aren’t overlooked. Your doctor may ask you to clarify or expand on details if you forget them. Organizing your thoughts logically using the Four Ws brings a level of sophistication and detail to the office visit that increases your chances of getting the right diagnosis.