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Get the most from your doctor's appointment

Experts: Write down prioritized list of questions

SAN ANTONIO – Most of us lead pretty busy lives, but one thing you don't want to rush is the limited time you spend with your doctor. 

Getting the most out of your doctor's appointment begins before you ever walk into the office. Experts said a good idea is to write down a prioritized list of questions. 

"It's important that patients come with their information prepared, with what they want to discuss," said Dr. Nancy Beran, an internist.

But sometimes the best of intentions get derailed.

"Doctors are distracted with entering data, getting telephone calls from other physicians and interruptions," Beran said. "Patients are distracted on their cellphones, and with what's going in their lives."

Beeran said the doctor and patient need to ignore distractions and slow down and really listen to each other.

Consumer Reports said doctors dealing with electronic health records can take time away from the patient.

A 2014 study by Northwestern University found that primary care doctors spent about a third of the time managing records on the computer during exam time rather than looking at their patients, which can make it harder to pick up on nonverbal cues. 

"If you feel like your doctor is distracted or fails to understand your problem, it's fine to politely let them know," said Consumer Reports health editor Diane Umansky. "Most will actually appreciate the opportunity to slow down and focus."

Beeran agrees.

"You have to have a rapport with patients. It's important for the patient to be heard," she said.

Once you are satisfied that all of your concerns have been addressed, Umansky suggests that you repeat the action plan at the end of the appointment to be sure you are in agreement with your doctor. 

Another good idea is to collect a printed copy of your patient summary.


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