Doctor’s appointments can feel far too short if you have a lot to discuss. It’s also easy to forget to mention an important point or misunderstand something your GP tells you. So, here are some suggestions on how to make the most of your appointment.
Prioritise your most pressing concerns
Although you should never leave your health concerns until you have an exhaustive list, if you find you already have, you might want to consider prioritising two or three of the health problems or symptoms that concern you the most. You can always make another appointment at a later date if more time is needed. It is also possible to ask for a longer appointment if you think you will need more time with your GP. Medicare helps with the cost of appointments that can run up to 20 minutes, up to 40 minutes and more than 40 minutes.
Although it’s possible some symptoms may be linked, most GPs will inquire about whether you have other specific symptoms which could be related. That’s when you can let them know about those. Simply listing ailments, which may or may not be related to each other, could delay any diagnosis or referral to the relevant specialist.
Don’t guess how long you have had symptoms
If you have felt unwell for a while, it’s easy to forget how long you have been this way, either under or over-estimating it. So, before your appointment, try to recall more accurately when it began. Often, the best way to do this is to recall other things that were going on in your life at the same time. This might be somebody’s birthday or anniversary, somewhere you went or something that happened at work or in the news. These are easier to work out the dates for and get a more accurate timeframe. Doing this ahead of time saves you trying to work it out on the spot and guessing.
Practise if you think you will feel too embarrassed
Some health conditions can feel too embarrassing to share. However, it’s important to remember that your GP has heard and seen many problems you might consider awkward to talk about. If you still feel uncomfortable, try practising what you will say.
It’s crucial to be honest with your doctor. Don’t leave out anything which could be important. You should also be prepared to answer questions from the GP. Although you might not have prepared an answer for these, it’s important to respond truthfully. Your doctor is a medical professional and will have a genuine reason for asking; often to help diagnose or refer you.
Plan and dress appropriately
If the doctor is likely to offer a physical exam for the area causing you problems, remember your time is limited, so try to dress appropriately to make this easier. For example, if you have a rash on your arm, wear a t-shirt. Instead of a jumper, wear a cardigan or jacket which you can slip your arm out of. Don’t waste time by removing items if you don’t have to. This could be better spent talking and asking questions about your health concerns. You will get the most out of your appointment by arriving early. You will be seen and won’t miss part of your appointment, or make the patients after you wait longer.
Don’t use Google before your appointment
It’s tempting to check your symptoms online before your appointment. However, this often causes more problems than it solves. Matching several common signs of serious illnesses can lead some patients to convince themselves their diagnosis is more serious than it is. Instead of listening to your GP, you might waste the appointment telling them what you think is wrong, missing something vital which could help them figure out the real problem. So, it’s best to go to your appointment, talk about the symptoms you’ve had, and allow your family doctor to do their job.
Make notes of any relevant family history
You may be asked if you have a history of specific illnesses or diseases and conditions in your immediate family. Although you don’t need a full family tree detailing everyone’s medical history, it’s helpful to find out a few things, if you don’t know already. Knowing whether any parents or siblings have heart conditions, have been diagnosed with certain types of cancer, have issues with blood pressure or whether diabetes runs in the family could help your doctor provide the right medical advice.
If nothing else, it could prompt your GP to send you for tests to eliminate these as a possibility. It’s easy for most people to learn this information, but if you were adopted or are estranged from your family, this can be more difficult.
Bring a friend or family member
Seeing a doctor is daunting for some patients, especially if the issue is embarrassing for them to discuss. So, if you bring a friend or family member you trust, they can speak up for you if you lose your nerve. Or they can help you remember your doctor’s instructions if you forget later.
Bringing someone can help you get a diagnosis quicker. It’s easy to overlook something, but someone close to you might notice how your condition affects you more than you do. A family member can also help you answer questions about the medical history of your family.
It seems like a lot to remember, but planning and preparation are the main things to help you get the most from your GP appointment.
Cost of seeing a medical professional
Not all doctors bulk bill and some charge more than others. To avoid any nasty surprises, check if your doctor bulk bills and if there will be any out-of-pocket costs. Do this when making an appointment. Remember, it is okay to discuss fees when choosing your doctor and to shop around.
The fees charged by medical practitioners do not have any bearing on the quality of care.
Use the find a health service tool on the healthdirect website to find a bulk billing GP or specialist near you.