Make the Most of Your 15 Minutes: Physician, Patient Advocates Provides Tips on Making the Most of Your Doctor’s Visit

SAN ANTONIO, Tex (rushprnews) 02/26/2007. –  According to statistics, the average length of a doctor’s visit is only 15 to 20 minutes.  Physician and patient advocate Dr. Terrie Wurzbacher maintains that with such a short window of time, it is imperative that patients and doctors are able to communicate clearly and efficiently. But, says Dr. Wurzbacher, a physician for over 30 years, that is far from what is actually happening: “The phrase doctor-patient communication is an oxymoron.” To provide help for patients and doctors everywhere, Dr. Wurzbacher has authored Your Doctor Said What? Exposing the Communication Gap (LifeSuccess Publishing, March 2007, www.yourdoctorsaidwhat.com)

Dr. Wurzbacher offers the following seven tips for making the most of your doctor’s visit:    Be prepared for your appointment. Make lists of such things as: your medications (name, dosage, how often you take it), your medical problems (current and past), your current symptoms (when they started, if they have changed any, what helps/makes them worse), your questions for the doctor and bring these lists with you.

   Don’t downplay, dismiss or explain away your symptoms. It’s happened way too often that a patient who was having a heart attack has actually wanted their chest pain to be from something simple like indigestion and successfully convinced the doctor that it was “just indigestion”. 3)      

Do not attribute everything to age. If you’re having trouble sleeping, mention it. This could impact your quality of life, mental status and general wellbeing. Your problem could be medication related. Or, it could be a medical problem. Let the doctor decide.   

Be honest about everything. This includes: everything you take (over the counter drugs included); the diet you haven’t stuck to; the medications you ran out of two weeks ago; those herbal medicines you started taking after your friend recommended them; that you’ve been depressed or lonely; you’ve been having trouble sleeping – tell all. The doctor can’t read your mind.  

Check your embarrassment at the door. Don’t be ashamed or embarrassed of anything. Rest assured the doctor’s probably heard everything you’re going to tell him at least 10 times.

Do not be afraid to ask questions. As you listen to what the doctor says, ask for clarification. Ask what’s going on and what he wants you to do so you’ll follow the directions accurately and get better. Ask about side effects of medications. Ask if there are alternatives to the drugs. Ask if there may be any interactions with the drugs you’re already taking. Ask when you should call an ambulance or go to an ER. Ask if it’s ok to just stop taking the medications if there’s a problem. Ask what’s wrong with you and insist the doctor explain it so you understand. You deserve answers.

Know your medical conditions.  Ask the doctor to write things down so you can research them on the internet or at the library. Ask for information on the conditions and on the drugs. If it’s a chronic condition ask for any local support groups. It’s your body and your responsibility to understand what’s going on with it. The more you know about your body and your conditions, the easier it will be to communicate with your doctor. 

Dr. Terrie Wurzbacher has been a physician for over 30 years.  She lives in
San Antonio, Texas.  Your Doctor Said What? Exposing the Communication Gap will be available in better bookstores nationwide and online in late March 2007. For more information, please contact Maryglenn McCombs by phone – (615) 297-9875, or by email – maryglenn@maryglenn.com

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