On average, patients in the US have 15 minutes at their doctor’s appointment. However, this includes everything: the exam, paperwork, various required questions and screenings. In the age of electronic medical records and evaluations to help address social determinants, you may feel like there’s not much time to talk to your doctor about your concerns. And, there are well-documented patient-doctor communication issues at play too. Therefore, you need to make your doctor’s appointment as productive as possible. We’re here to help with our advocates’ tips.
Be Prepared to Make your Doctor’s Appointment More Productive
When you look at the statistics of timing and communication, it’s clear how important it is to prepare for your doctor’s appointment. You need to be able to provide accurate information quickly to the medical staff. Everyone should come in with a list of current concerns and questions. Without such a list, it’s easy to get sidetracked. The doctor has a long list of tasks to complete in a short time. However, even more concerning, doctors interrupt patients an average of 23 seconds into the patient talking.
Download our free doctor’s visit checklist (for in person or telehealth visits). Review it to prepare for your visit and print it to use at the appointment.
One task we all need to complete is pulling together our medical records and health history. There’s nothing worse than having to remember and fill out endless forms at different doctor’s offices. Actually, what’s worse is doing it when you’re ill or anxious. Having that information reduces your stress, saves time and helps make your medical care better. About 80% of medical errors result from miscommunication. And, those aren’t all on the side of the medical staff. Patients often forget or fail to disclose information that could be vital to their care.
The Benefits of an Advocate for Your Doctor’s Appointment
One of the best ways to make your doctor’s appointment more productive is bringing along an advocate. With the help of an advocate, you will:
- Be better prepared. A patient advocate can help with the prep work, such as organizing those medical records.
- Get consistent continuity of care. Your care manager will ensure good communication and coordinate your care amongst providers.
- Receive and give more accurate communication. When you’re stressed, as most of us are in many medical situations, it can be hard to take in what the doctor is saying. Along with the communication issues already mentioned, this stress might make you overlook key questions. How many times have you found yourself remembering something you wanted to ask about after the appointment? Even if you can have a family member attend appointments, you both might benefit from an advocate’s help in such stressful situations.
- Get better results…more easily. A professional advocate knows what to ask, who to ask, and how to ask. The things they think about that you might not could make all the difference in your results. They know how to get things done in the medical system. For example, the receptionist/office manager can be a key person to get to know. And, some doctor’s offices have specific protocols. You can save time and hassle knowing these.
Timing your Doctor’s Appointment for Maximum Productivity
Do you just make your doctor’s appointment when it’s most convenient for you? Well, that may not be the best choice for a productive visit.
In most cases, the best time of day for a doctor’s appointment is early morning or right after lunch. These usually result in less wait time, as the doctor won’t likely be behind schedule. This can also result in a more relaxed atmosphere, and perhaps an extra minute or two with the doctor.
One study published in JAMA showed that appointment time had a significant effect on whether doctors ordered screenings. Going to the doctor at 8 a.m. was associated with the highest rate for ordered screening tests at 64 percent. The percentage decreased throughout the course of the morning and then received a bump at noon (start of the new shift) up to 56 percent, before hitting their lowest levels in the later afternoon.
Mondays and Fridays also tend to be the worst days. Patients waiting to see the doctor from the weekend often fill up the schedule on Mondays. And, the office may get a lot of panicked calls and appointment requests as the weekend approaches. But, we advise knowing the way the specific office operates so you can find the ideal time. Some doctors may do procedures or hospital visits on some days, which may cause them to get behind schedule.
It can also be important to take yourself into account in this equation. If you’re exhausted, you may not be able to make the most of your visits. Think about when you’re at your best, and don’t schedule too much in one day. Our care managers factor this in when making client appointments.
Communicating in the Electronic Era
Electronic medical records (EMRs) offer a lot of benefits to the doctor and patient. This is why EMRs have been widely implemented. They can reduce miscommunication and errors, boost quality and safety, and give you more information and an active role in your care.
However, some patients feel uncomfortable with the doctor using a computer during the visit. It can feel like yet another barrier to communication. However, with preparation and the steps listed above, this doesn’t need to be the case. Think of it as a tool rather than a barrier.
You can make your doctor’s appointment much more productive by accessing their electronic patient portal. Make sure that you or your advocate set up access and explore the portal. It can allow you to review visit notes, see test results, communicate more easily and directly with the doctor and review follow up. Nowadays, you will often be asked to fill out information on the portal prior to the appointment. Take time to do that, rather than being rushed at the office.
If you have problems or questions, know who to talk to in the office. Though it may take some getting used to, these EMRs and portals are meant to address some of the biggest problems in the medical system.