Have you ever walked out at the end of a doctor’s visit only to realise you forgot to ask a question, or forgot part of what the doctor talked to you about? Planning ahead can help you get the most out of your visit to the practice, and here are some tips to help you.
1. Decide what is the most important thing you want to get out of the visit
A visit to your GP can pass very quickly. It may feel like there is a long wait from the time you book your appointment, then maybe there is a wait once you arrive for your appointment, but somehow, even though time passes slowly up until when you walk into the doctor’s room, the next 15 minutes seem to pass in the blink of an eye! It is not surprising if you look at what happens in the consult – maybe you spend around 1 minute saying hello and introducing yourself and then move onto talking about a problem, let’s say, for 4 minutes. If the doctor examines you for 3 minutes (taking a blood pressure takes about 1 minute on its own), discusses a diagnosis with you for 3 minutes and spends another 2 minutes writing notes, referrals, blood tests and scripts, then suddenly 13 minutes has passed and you have only managed to talk about one problem. If there were other problems or questions you wanted to talk about you are suddenly out of time! So it can be important to make sure you know what the most important issue is for you, so that you can work on it first and not miss out.
2. Write a list
Even if there is one thing that is the most important to you, there may be other things that you want to talk to the doctor about. To help you remember what these are and to help negotiate how much you can get done in the appointment, writing a list can be helpful for both yourself and your doctor. Share your list, and discuss what are the most important ones for you, and your doctor may indicate which ones seem the most concerning or urgent to look after quickly.
3. Book an appointment type that best suits your needs
After thinking about what is the most important thing you want to do, and what other things you may want to discuss, try to book an appointment that will help you get the most out of the visit. If you have multiple things you want to get done, or if there are particular things (like your Cervical Screening Test or a Mental Health Care Plan) then asking for a particular type of appointment may help you get these things done without having to come back another time.
4. Bring someone along to the visit with you
Sometimes an appointment will include being given a lot of information or, at times, bad news. This may make it hard to understand everything that you are told in the visit, or may mean you don’t manage to ask the questions that are most important to you. Having an extra set of ears may help you remember the important information, and having someone else to help you ask questions that are important to you can be invaluable.
5. Make sure you have a plan for your follow up/results/what to do next
With so many things to get done at your visit, it is key to finish the consultation well. This includes making sure you understand the plan of what needs to happen next. Make sure you understand any instructions clearly, including what tests you need to do and when to do them, how you will receive any results, how to take any medications, when you need to see the doctor again, and what you should do if something changes in the meantime. It can be helpful to write these things down during the visit.
We hope these tips can help you get the most out of your next visit to Barton Lane Practice.