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What’s Up, Doc?

Follow these five tips to develop a productive rapport with your physician, courtesy of Cardiologist Leonardo Divagno.

1. Tell a story

Doctors can make better diagnoses by listening to a patient’s story about what’s troubling them, rather than hearing a list of symptoms, or a vague complaint, like “my chest hurts.” Be able to explain specifics, like:

  • When the pain started
  • If it’s ever been painful before
  • What you were doing when you first felt it
  • How the pain felt (was it a stabbing pain? a dull ache?)
  • How often you feel the pain

2. Be completely honest 

“Consider us your ally,” Divagno says. “We need you to be open with us so that we can keep you out of the hospital.” Answer a physician’s questions truthfully, even if the subject matter makes you a little uncomfortable. Doctors are nonjudgmental and typically very accepting of different approaches to life, and they can’t share your personal information with anyone without your written permission.

3. Prioritize your concerns 

Be mindful of the fact that a physician might not have time to answer 30 different questions, so write them down in order of importance. “Preparation is very important,” says Divagno. Stay focused on the main reason for your visit. If you’re most concerned about heart palpitations, don’t get sidetracked talking about an ingrown toenail. Come prepared with bullet points of the most important topics you want to cover.

4. Bring someone with you

If you’re dealing with a complex health issue, a doctor’s visit can seem overwhelming, especially if you’re seeing multiple specialists for treatment. Having a loved one with you can be helpful. That person can assist in making sure that you remember to ask all of the questions you have. If you do bring someone with you, have them take notes so that you can remember everything that was covered. 

5. Keep the conversation going

If you’ve got questions or updates after your appointment, pick up the phone or log on to the doctor’s patient portal, which can be particularly useful if you have questions about what was discussed, or need to revisit your treatment instructions. You should also request a copy of the doctor’s notes from your visit to ensure that your health data remains up-to-date and accurate. 

Make the most of every second by asking targeted questions.

Ask the right questions

If the doctor says you have a specific ailment, ask:

  • What is the name of my diagnosis? 
  • What is the cause?
  • How long should I expect to be sick?
  • When do you think I will start to see improvement?
  • Under what circumstances should I call your office? (Examples: Pain becomes worse, excessive bleeding,  high fever, etc.)

If the doctor wants to  perform a test, ask:

  • Why is this test necessary?
  • What information will it provide?
  • Will the results alter my treatment plan?
  • When can I expect the results? How will I receive them?

If the doctor discusses a treatment plan, ask:

  • Why do you think this specific treatment is best for me?
  • What does the research show?
  • What results can I expect?
  • What are the common side effects?
  • Are there any alternative treatments to consider, either before or along with it? 

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