One of the key ways to improve your health and well-being is to have a relationships with a health care provider whom you trust. Often, however, patients don’t know how to have the best possible experience when they visit their doctor’s office.
“Our expectations for medical care can — and should — be higher than any other services we use,” said patient satisfaction expert Steve Feldman, M.D., a dermatologist and founder of DrScore.com, the online physician rating website. “We should expect ‘technically’ great medical care, meaning an accurate diagnosis and proper treatment, but we should also expect to be treated courteously and respectfully by a caring physician. We, as patients, can affect the quality of our experience in the doctor’s office by following these simple tips.”
Tip 1: To avoid a long wait, try scheduling your appointments at the beginning of the day or right after lunch. The doctor’s first appointment of the day is the one most likely to be on time because he or she is less likely to be delayed by an earlier patient’s needs. Other patients prefer the last appointment of the day — the doctor may be running late, but he won’t be rushing to see other patients. “Physicians do try to set reasonable appointment times, but some patients may take longer than expected to see — and you want a physician who will take extra time with you if you need it,” said Dr. Feldman. “Try setting your appointments when your schedule is flexible and an unexpected wait won’t stress you out.
Tip 2: In case you have a long wait, bring something, such as a book or paperwork, that will allow you to be productive. “I bring my laptop, so I can catch up on e-mails if the office has a wireless connection,” Dr. Feldman said. “Smart phones work, too. You just have to make sure you move to a more private place if you have to return phone calls, so you don’t disturb other patients.
Tip 3: Bring a written list of all your medications, your past illnesses, your current problems and your questions with you to every appointment. “By listing your problems, concerns and questions, you will be that much better prepared and the visit will go much more smoothly,” Dr. Feldman said. “Doctors appreciate organizational skills.”
Tip 4: If you feel unsure about a situation, speak up and ask about it. “In a good medical office, the doctor and staff will keep you informed as to what is happening and what happens next,” Dr. Feldman said. “But doctors get distracted and forget sometimes, so don’t hesitate to ask a question or tell them what is on your mind.”
Tip 5: If you have a negative issue you want to address, try addressing it in a positive, non-threatening way. For example, “you may feel the doctor is not listening to you,” Dr. Feldman said. “Even the smartest, most technically adept doctors do not always have great people skills, and even the ones with the best people skills may not be at the top of their game. Instead of saying ‘you’re not listening to me,’ which can invite defensiveness, try: ‘Doctor, I know you are listening to me, but when you look down at the floor while I’m speaking, it makes me feel like I’m not being heard.’”
Tip 6: At the end of the visit, make sure you have received written instructions on medications and treatment plans, and you know how and when you will get results from any tests. “The end of the visit is a critical time where the doctor writes prescriptions, gives you the best advice on how to take care of yourself or treat your illness, and talks about test follow-up,” Dr. Feldman said. “The details of medical care are common knowledge for the doctor, but it may be new information for you, so ask for your treatment plan in writing so you don’t forget anything.” Missed test results can cause problems, so make sure you are proactive in finding out how the office will get the results to you.
Tip 7: Give your doctor feedback. Take the time to let your doctor know how the visit went either by telling him or her, communicating to the office staff, writing a letter or participating in an anonymous patient satisfaction survey, such as the one at www.drscore.com. “Don’t ever be afraid to give your doctor advice on how to be a better doctor,” said Dr. Feldman. “When you give your doctor feedback — whether it is positive or negative — you are giving them a gift.”