As I’ve spent more and more of my time going to different doctors I’ve realized how much people don’t know about how doctor’s offices work. Also, different doctors or practices obviously have different procedures. As of the last few months, maybe even the last year, I now try to do certain things when going to the doctor. It’s probably why I’ve decided to also refer to myself as a professional patient.
I find lists are easier to read on the Internet. For the most part these are in no particular order.
1. Give yourself enough time to arrive and have time to park, depending on the parking situation. Especially give yourself extra time if the location of the appointment is unfamiliar.
Example: Some of my doctors are in a hospital office building with valet. The parking is so ridiculous valet is the only option. I try to give myself ten minutes because I don’t how how busy valet is.
2. Try to get there at least three minutes before your appointment time. Five to ten is better. It takes a few minutes for the person at the front desk who checks you in to let the person who will come get you that you are here. If there are four appointments before yours and those four people arrive in the waiting room at their appointment time and it takes five minutes for the nurse to come get them, you might wait an extra 15-20 minutes because of that alone. This leads into number three.
There are other reasons too, like maybe you have to fill out paperwork. New patient paperwork obviously takes more time.
3. Doctors can only see patients as fast as their nurses/assistants “check them in.” When you go back to the exam room the “nurse” is going do any number of things: check your vitals, gather information about your visit or changes since your last visit, and confirm there have been no changes in your medicine. This takes time. It will probably also take time if they are new at their job/position. This leads me to number four.
4. Tell (all of) your doctor(s) about all of your medicines. It doesn’t matter if they are over the counter or something you don’t take every day. This is very important. If you don’t tell your doctor all of your medicines, vitamins, supplements, and other over the counter “things” you take, how can you expect your doctor to help you? Basically this can be summarized into two words which leads me to number five. If you can’t remember everything, it’s okay to make your own list of your medicines, supplements, and anything you take as needed. You can provide this list to each doctor. If that list is also organized and everything is spelled correctly, your doctor will really appreciate it.
5. Be honest with your doctor, nurse practitioner, physician’s assistant, medical professional. If you aren’t honest then they aren’t working with all the information. What’s that saying about assumptions making an ass out of everyone? Honesty leads me into number six.
6. Remember that everyone’s day is always easier and more pleasant when everyone you meet is respectful and courteous. The people working at the doctor’s office do realize that a lot of people are stressed or not feeling well when they arrive. Sometimes the people at the front desk are rude. It happens. There’s only so much you can do about it. However, if your doctor is rude or disrespectful to you, try to find another doctor. Your doctor should respect you and listen to you. This is how you can build a relationship with your doctor and learn to trust the advice and “orders” your doctor provides you.
7. Most doctors will call you to confirm your appointment. If you don’t get a confirmation phone call, email, or text message, you might want to call and confirm your appointment. Also, if your doctor wants you to follow-up then there is a reason.
8. Don’t put off scheduling any appointments, that way you have more choices for when you’d like the appointment. New patient appointments are different from regular appointments and take extra time. Make sure to not procrastinate scheduling with a new doctor because you may even have to wait for months before you see the doctor. If your doctor is often running late (for whatever reason) it might help to schedule appointments earlier in the day.
9. Most doctor offices prefer that you call and let them know you are running late. However, past a certain time frame, they might request you reschedule. Some doctors will make you pay. In my experience, most doctor offices don’t mind if you are 5-10 minutes late, especially if you call ahead and are respectful and courteous. What to do when the doctor is late varies.
Example: One of my doctors has a sign in the waiting room requesting that you talk to the receptionist if you are waiting for more than 20 minutes. However, my neurologist runs late for varying amounts of time on different days. I realized, eventually, that she runs late not because she’s disorganized but because she doesn’t rush her patients and sometimes there are a lot of questions!
10. Finally, never be afraid to “fire” a doctor because that doctor is not listening to you. Just be warned, this is not the same thing as you not listening to your doctor because they are saying things you don’t want to hear.
If you think I missed something, feel free to say so.