How to Have a Positive Doctor's Appointment

HOW TO HAVE A POSITIVE DOCTOR'S APPOINTMENT

If you caught it on Insta stories last week, I went to a new doctor to establish care after moving to Idaho, and honestly had a great experience! Going to a doctor's appointment can be stressful so I was relieved to have a good one. I actually haven't really had a doctor since graduating from my pediatrician (yes, it's been way too long). Student health was my go-to in undergrad when I had concerns, then I did briefly establish care with a primary care provider (PCP) in graduate school after being in a car accident, and while it was nice to have a place to go if I was sick, I didn't love my doctor and didn't feel like my philosophies aligned with his.

With my current doctor, I went in for an appointment to basically establish myself as a patient, but also had some questions. It was awesome to feel listened to, and after finding out that I was a dietitian, my doctor adjusted his approach to a more scientific and technical explanation, plus literally drew me a picture of the physiology we were discussing and was open to ordering labs I requested. I didn't realize how much I disliked my previous doctors until this appointment, but it feels so good and freeing to have had such an empowering visit.

FINDING A DOCTOR

Aside from the normal checking of coverage and networks with your insurance, you can also find a website like Healthgrades to see what other patients have said about the doctors you're looking at. I didn't have this option, seeing as I now live in a little town of 3000 and there are literally 3 doctors :), but I definitely recommend it to get others' opinions.

You can also ask friends or family, or ask for recommendations on Facebook! Think about people with similar values as you, then see who they go to. For example, if you're interested in the fertility awareness method and you have a friend who uses it, open up a conversation to see who her OB/GYN is and if he or she is receptive to patients using FAM.

BEFORE YOU GO IN

I find it super helpful to have a list of my medications, allergies, medical history, and questions just loaded onto a note on my phone so that I don't forget anything. If I'm going in for a routine appointment, I also look over my previous labs and notes from other concerns to refresh my memory and generate new questions.

I also keep a note on my phone of running concerns, which is especially helpful since I have IBS. I jot down things like foods that triggered GI distress, patterns I notice, and things that seem to help my symptoms. I mostly keep this note for me, but it's great information to have on hand at the doctor's office!

EXAMPLES OF GOOD QUESTIONS TO ASK

  • Can you explain to me why you ordered (or are ordering) this lab?
  • What is your typical approach for concerns like this?
  • What are your thoughts about _____ supplementation? **NOTE** I highly recommend talking to your doctor about any supplements or vitamins you are considering taking. They may recommend lab draws to assess your need for those supplements, and likely have great insight as to how the supplements may interact with other things you are taking. Smart, strategic supplementation is the way to go!

AT YOUR APPOINTMENT

My new favorite practice is to get weighed backwards, aka stepping onto the scale facing away from the screen or result so that you don't actually find out the number. Because really, that number is just your body's relationship to gravity and doesn't have a whole lot to do with your health. How you feel is much more important.

If you're planning to get weighed backwards, request that the nurse or technician not tell you your weight. We all have habits at work, and weighing people and telling them the value is a very routine part of a clinic nurse's job - so reminding them to not tell you will help engage them and remind them that you don't want to know.

Also, it's okay to ask questions about why they're doing what they're doing, or what your results mean! Ask about your blood pressure and if it's in normal ranges (but remember that sometimes they're expected to let your doctor explain so you may have to hold onto that question), or your temperature or pulse ox. Be curious, because it's your health!

Finally, take notes! Or, if it's an information-packed appointment, bring a friend or loved one. Medical jargon can be overwhelming, especially if you're not familiar with the terms, and it's easy to spend an appointment nodding and then walk out with nothing retained.

IF YOU'RE UNCOMFORTABLE

It's okay to say it. I know that it can cause some major anxiety to some (most!) to cause conflict or openly disagree. But saying something like, "I'm not sure I understood that. Can you explain it to me differently?" will drastically improve your care and you'll walk out feeling better.