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Easier Visits to the Doctor

Looking for ways to make your visits to the doctor less cumbersome? Straight from the Doc gives you the inside scoop, covering the following topics.

  • Best time of day to have an appointment
  • Worst time of day to have an appointment
  • Worst days to have a routine appointment
  • Is it OK to call to see whether your doctor is running behind
  • Best time to call with a question for the doctor or nurse
  • Worst time to call with a question
  • Worst time to call a specialist’s office with a question
  • Should you research your ailment before your appointment
  • Worst time to try to remember what you wanted to ask the doctor about
  • Worst time to call for a prescription refill
  • Best way to get your doctor’s attention
  • Best way to keep the receptionist (and everyone else) happy

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Misunderstandings Between Doctors & Patients

When doctors and patients talk to one another, it’s through a phone call about 25% of the time, according to a study published in The Journal of General Internal Medicine. While this is a useful way to interact, misunderstandings can lead to problems ranging from inconvenience and anxiety for patients to compromising patient safety.

Telecommunications: When Lines Get Crossed for Doctors and Patients, from yesterday’s New York Times, provides examples of medical mistakes and why they occurred.

Perhaps the most important responsibility for a patient is to speak up. It’s all too easy to minimize symptoms or be intimidated by a doctor who sounds rushed or annoyed. Assertiveness is hard to muster when you don’t feel well, but try to be extra-focused while you’re on the phone. This is your chance to get your questions answered, so make it count.

Some ideas for how you can help your doc avoid mistakes include:

  • Make a list of your symptoms before you call and be sure that you cover every item on the list.
  • If you’re prescribed a medication, ask if it has any interactions with your other meds. Have a list of your meds handy in case you need to tell him or her exactly what you’re taking.
  • Before you place the original call, make sure that when the call is returned you can go somewhere where no one can overhear the conversation. (I know, easier said than done.)
  • If questions come to mind while you’re waiting for a call or between the time you get a test done and when the results come, write them down somewhere that you can find them later.
  • If you’re given test results and don’t already have yoru questions answered, ask about what was tested, what the tests were looking for and what the results mean for you.
  • If the doc names an illness or disease that you’re unfamiliar with, ask for details about it and how the name is spelled. You can always get more information online as long as you’re confident in the source.
  • Ask if there is any further action you need to take.

OK, so these are common sense. The keys really are to be prepared for the call if possible and speak up for yourself until you feel like your questions have been answered.

The Headache & Migraine News blog had a similar post yesterday, which talks about checking prescriptions. (Thanks for the info, James!)

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Leaving Medicine for Hollywood

No longer practicing medicine, Harvard-trained internist David Foster is now a writer and medical consultant for the TV show “House.” He combines his experience and the Merck Manual of Medicine to create the show’s dramatic medical scenarios. I’ve never seen the show, but the article’s author claims the issues “resonate with authority and realism.”

Foster says, “I’m able to influence public debate and public thinking through the stories we tell on ‘House.’ I’m able to have a voice in public health and public policy and the medical world.” It’s great that the scenarios of a medical TV show can be plausible, but I’m troubled that a doc has more influence on public health, policy and medicine on Fox than he did while practicing in inner-city Boston.

via Kevin, MD

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Taping Doctors’ Visits

At my last appointment with my headache specialist, I told him I’d love to take him out for drinks so I could have a couple hours to learn more about headaches and his opinions. This will never actually happen, so I’m content squeeze what I can out of our visits. The problem is, I scribble notes like crazy but they never capture the whole visit and are so hurried that half of them make no sense.

I’ve thought about taping the appointments, but I’ve never been comfortable asking (funny since I was perfectly comfortable asking him out to a bar) and am concerned that he might censor himself in the presence of a tape recorder (another reason martinis would be useful). If a Patient Wants to Tape the Visit shares views from doctors who support it and others who hate it, with comments from a malpractice attorney thrown in. Kevin, MD, tipped me off to the article and also has some interesting comments from doctors who follow his blog.

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The Waiting Game

Sick and Scared, and Waiting, Waiting, Waiting, the latest article in the New York Times‘ Being a Patient series, examines the plight of a patient left to wait on test results, for an appointment or to get a return phone call, the medical culture that supports this, and some doctors’ perspectives on the problem. Make sure to look at the graphic on a day in the ER.