How To Bat A Thousand At Your Doctor’s Appointment

Photo courtesy of George Young DMV Weather

Frustrated with your doctor?  Feel like your concerns are being minimized or dismissed altogether? Want a do over?

As a ‘professional’ patient, I have had hits, wins and losses as well as rare second chances. The playing field has been my greatest teacher.

Key Stats:

First impressions aren’t always spot on 

Both doctors and patients make snap judgments (rookie move).  Yesterday was a reminder. A specialist I first saw one year ago came across as close-minded and dismissive. He has since proven to be open, communicative and attentive.  It took time to gel.

Preparation is key

Whether it’s the World Series or a job interview you don’t show up unprepared, right?

  •  Know what you want to get out of your appointment.
  •  Organize and bring your medical records, any test results, a list of medications.
  •  Write down your top 3-5 questions/concerns.

The doctor has a narrow window to review your information, ask questions and address your concerns.

Good communication is paramount

Effective communication means both parties are heard with clear understanding in an open, respectful manner. At the start of your appointment relay that you have questions and ask the doctor’s preference for the best time to go over them.

Be clear, concise and specific when describing your symptoms.

Ex:  “I feel a stabbing pain in the middle of my back. It began three weeks ago when I was moving furniture. Walking reduces my discomfort, sitting increase it.”

If confused or dissatisfied with what transpired (or didn’t) during your visit, say so. Ask for clarification, use open-ended questions to encourage an introspective response, and articulate your request.

Ex:  What led you to this conclusion? How effective do you feel this treatment will be versus ___?

Ex:  I am still concerned about my health, something isn’t adding up, I’d like you to reconsider ___.  I understand the diagnostic test was inconclusive, if my symptoms persist, I’d like it repeated in two months.

Play to your strengths

Are you a critical thinker, up on the latest research?  I excel at building relationships so I use that to my benefit.

Sometimes you need a pinch hitter

Not on your A-game, need to hit the bench? … let someone else go to bat for you.  Bring along a trusted friend, family member or health advocate to help you navigate the conversation and offer support.

Bad calls can be reversed

I once had a mark on my skin I thought might be Melanoma (it wasn’t my first one) so I requested a biopsy.  The Dermatologist declined saying it wasn’t anything to worry about.  I pressed on, he acquiesced; it was a malignancy.  He humbly apologized and thanked me for speaking up.

Challenge the call!

“It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over”

The infamous baseball manager Yogi Berra and smooth musician Lenny Kravitz Nailed It!.

Carry on!

Chime In:

  • Where do you get most stuck when engaged with the medical world?
  • What has helped you navigate?



8 thoughts on “How To Bat A Thousand At Your Doctor’s Appointment

  1. Superbly sensible and balanced advice. Realistic about docs AND about patients, both of whom have needs and limitations. It’s hard to persuade someone who’s already in pain to stop, focus, plan, condense — but that’s exactly what can lead to best result. And persisting in questions when medical person at first seems unengaged or abrupt is a challenge. Be gracious, and persist!

    I’d only reemphasize the wisdom of taking someone else along.

    1. Yes, needs and limitations-well put! I met someone this weekend that not only has his spouse join him for each visit (he is dealing with a very serious health issue) but also records each appointment. Something we also discussed that I did not mention in the article is that the fit has to be right as well and if it’s not a match-and you have the option to go elsewhere-then by all means do so. This article had a different twist, but that is equally worth noting! Thank you for your input.

  2. Very useful even for someone like me who has been to jillion’s of doctors’ visits. Clear, concise, fun with baseball narrative.

  3. Thank you Jill. Encouraging post for many of us addressing “illnesses”, our Drs and health providers etc. I am sharing your blog with a men’s cancer suppprt group. I believe they will get a lot out of your writing. Dr’s relationship conversations are commun occurance.

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