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How to Get the Most from Your Doctor’s Appointment

The average time an intern or resident doctor spends with a patient is 8 minutes. Primary care
doctors routinely schedule appointments every 15 minutes, and some spend even less time than that with patients. Whether this is due to the insurance industry, politics, money, or a defective medical system is an ongoing debate.

However, there is still a lot you can do to get the most from your doctors’ appointments and protect yourself from medical errors. Preparing for your doctor’s appointment and communicating with your doctor are some of the most important things you can do for your health.

Preparing for Your Doctor’s Appointment

Research the Doctor

Doctor with female patient listening to her heart 9.12.14Insurance and location may be important factors when choosing a doctor, but it’s important to find a doctor that you feel comfortable with.   This person will be a partner in your health like a financial advisor would be to your wealth.

Like an effective financial advisor, a good doctor will plan for your interests now and for the years to come. Sincerelely listening to your needs and concerns, a good doctor will create a treatment plan tailored to your unique needs and values.

Then he or she will make sure you understand the plan and its risks and benefits. Finding a doctor who can coach you to good health for a lifetime is one of the most important things you can do for your health.

Sites like, and often provide doctor ratings and patient reviews. Also, you’re entitled to meet with your doctor before deciding to commit to him or her long term. We are entitled to and are expected to shop around before selecting major items like cars and houses.   Choosing a doctor to protect our health should be no different.

Prepare a list

Preparing a list of questions, goals, and symptoms prior to your doctor’s appointment will insure that you get the most from the short time you have with your doctor. Like I tell my personal injury clients, I make a list before every one of doctor’s appointments because I know if I don’t I will forget at least one thing just like I do when I go grocery shopping without a list.

Before your appointment ends, go over the list to be sure you’ve covered everything. This simple step benefits both you and your doctor by keeping the discussion focused and ensuring that all your concerns are addressed.

Bring Your Insurance Card and Copay

This will make sure you’re not turned away from your appointment and insure that your insurance is accurately billed directly by your doctor.

Bring a family member or close friend to your appointment

Bringing someone to your appointment who understands your goals and concerns can help ease the stress of the appointment.  He or she can also act as a reminder if you forget to address one of your health concerns with your doctor.

Communicating with your Doctor and Insurance Provider

Ask About Insurance Coverage

If you’re not sure if your recommended treatment is covered by your insurance, you can call your health insurance provider directly. This could save you money and stress. Calling your insurer is also a good way to find out if your coverage includes treatment like massages, acupuncture and other alternative treatments.

It’s also helpful to find out if your medical specialist is in your network. If not, calling your insurance provider can help you understand the costs associated with a using a doctor out of your network.

Ask About Treatments

A doctor or a health provider should discuss the side effects, risks and benefits of any proposed treatment so that you can make an informed decision about your health. Unfortunately, that does not always happen. Therefore, it’s important to ask the doctor directly what the treatment is and what are the risks and potential benefits.

Dr. Melissa Stoppler, MD, says, “Don’t hesitate to use the words “I don’t understand.” Doctors are only human and may not always know when they haven’t explained something well or in terms you can understand. Never feel embarrassed or shy about asking for clarification about something your doctor says. When in doubt, repeat back what your doctor has told you and ask if you’ve got it right. You can also ask if he or she recommends any specific reading materials about your condition.”

Dr. Stoppler is co-editor-in-chief of Webster’s New World Medical Dictionary.

Get Copies of Lab and Test Results

Ask for copies of your lab and test results at your visit or by phone. This way, you can keep an accurate health history and make sure your doctor didn’t miss anything. Most lab result sheets will include an indication that your results were high or abnormal.

Personally, I like to look at my lab results and then google them. However, not all internet resources are reliable, and it’s best to directly discuss your concerns with your doctor. However, the internet can help prepare you for your appointment and identify topics to discuss with your doctor.

Get a Free Case Evaluation with a West Virginia Medical Malpractice Lawyer

At West Law Firm, we hope you get the medical care you need and never need a medical malpractice lawyer. However, if you suspect you or a loved one was injured or died as a result of medical negligence in West Virginia, we invite you to call us for a free and confidential consultation. Our toll free number is 1-877-943-WEST (1-877-943-9378). You also don’t have to worry about whether you can afford a lawyer, because with West Law Firm there’s never a fee unless and until we get money for you.

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