Personal Finance Q & A

Q: My doctor seems rushed when I go in for an appointment. How can I make sure I’m getting the most from my time with my doctor?

A: Doctors are short on time these days as lower payments from insurance companies mean physicians must see more patients to earn a living. So doctors say it is very important for patients to prepare in advance for appointments to ensure a useful, helpful visit. Preparations should include doing some research on relevant medical conditions to finding a friend to accompany you.

“You wouldn’t go to a business meeting without preparation so why would you go to a meeting with doctor without preparing?” said Dr. Marie Savard, an internist who wrote the books “How To Save Your Own Life” and “The Savard Health Record.”

Preparation should begin when you make an appointment, Savard said. If you have a specific or complex problem, tell the person making the appointment so they can alert the physician and if necessary schedule more time for your visit.

Before going to the doctor, write down the matters you want to discuss so you won’t forget, physicians said. They also advise compiling a family medical history, a list of medications you take and your previous health problems. This is especially important because people tend to switch doctors more frequently than in the past and your physician might not know all of your relevant health information.

“Eighty-five percent of a diagnosis comes from history so you have to make sure that your history is as complete as possible,” said Dr. John Nelson, an obstetrician and gynecologist who is president-elect of the American Medical Association.

Patients should research medical problems or conditions so they can have a more informed, educated conversation with their doctor. Yet, physicians caution that patients should only use reputable books and Web sites. offers tips from Savard on how to prepare for doctor visits, including a list of questions to help you articulate your reason for visiting the doctor. Doctors recommend sites of organizations such as AMA and The Mayo Clinic. Patient advocacy and research organizations such as the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association are also good sources of information.

Don’t be afraid to tell your doctor if you don’t understand what they are saying. If English isn’t your first language, consider either finding a bilingual doctor or bring a trusted friend to translate.

Even if communication isn’t a problem, doctors say bringing a friend or relative is a good idea. Your companion can prompt you to remember to ask question or drive you home in case of bad news.

If you still feel shortchanged by your doctor, consider switching providers. Everyone has different personality and finding a physician who suits yours may take some time.

Associated Press

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