How to Maximize the Value of a Doctor’s Visit

Doctor Who Tardis by Andrew* on Flickr!I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t like going to the doctor. I had a few terrible experiences with who I still call “the world’s scariest doctor” when I was a young child (“I’m going to clean it out now” in a frigid monotone, followed by the sound of a buzzsaw starting up and something cold and metallic jabbing me in the ear), and since then I’d rather do almost anything than visit a medical professional.

Thus, it’s not only in my personal best interest but my financial best interest to get the absolute maximum value that I can out of every doctor’s visit. Here are ten great tactics to maximize the value of any doctor’s visit.

Ten Tips to Maximize the Value of Your Doctor’s Visit

1. Be on time, and don’t throw a fit about waiting

Remember, medical emergencies do happen. When you have an appointment, do your best to show up on time – don’t just fluff it off by saying, “Well, they’ll call me in late anyway.” That just means that someone else will get called in before you and you’ll be even later. Most medical professionals make a concerted effort to keep to their schedule – they want to go home, too – but medical emergencies do happen. You’d want your doctor to drop everything and help you in a medical emergency, would you not? So why not be understanding when he or she does the same for another patient?

2. Get any concerns you have off your chest

No matter what the purpose of your visit is for (unless it’s to a specialist), let your doctor know of any medical concerns you have right then. It’s better to deal with all of your concerns in one appointment than to “let it slide” and have to come back at a later time for another appointment. Not only that, there’s some chance that your ailments may be connected and may apply to the condition you’re suffering now.

3. Be fully honest, even if it means admitting some bad behavior

Doctors can only make a correct diagnosis if they’re given correct information, so that means telling the honest truth about your behavior. If you don’t exercise, don’t describe it as “light.” If you drink a six pack a day, don’t say you have “a beer or two once in a while.” If you smoke a pack a day, don’t say “I have a few a week.” Don’t say that you eat healthy when you just knocked back a few double cheeseburgers. If you use hard drugs, don’t deny it. If you’ve had a lot of unprotected sex, say so. Your doctor is there to heal you, not judge you, and you make it more difficult to get the treatment you need if you create falsifications about your situation.

4. Give as much detail as is reasonably possible

When describing your concerns or your condition, give details (within reason). Don’t just say “my chest hurts,” describe the pain. Is it a weight? Is it intense? Is it constant, or does it come and go? Does it occur after you do certain things? Let your doctor know all of this about any ailments you’re experiencing. Not doing this gives your doctor a false impression of the situation – a good doctor will ask questions to tease this out of you, but you’re better off just spilling it up front.

5. If something is unclear at all to you, ask

If your doctor describes something or makes a suggestion that you don’t fully understand, admit that you don’t understand and ask for more information. If you walk out of a doctor’s office confused about your condition and confused about what you’re supposed to do, your appointment just became a waste of your time and the doctor’s time. Don’t leave unless you understand your condition.

6. Ask about independent steps you can take to prevent recurrence

No matter what your condition is, ask the doctor what you can do on your own to help with the symptoms or prevent recurrence – and take the suggestions seriously. You’ll probably hear things you already knew about (eat better, exercise, stop smoking, cut back on the alcohol) and maybe a thing or two you didn’t expect (start taking a vitamin, eat more carrots, wash your hands). The key is to follow up on those things – actually make a real effort to do them so that you don’t get sick again.

7. Ask for prescription samples

If you’re given a prescription, ask for some samples of that prescription. This serves two purposes: it potentially reduces your overall cost for prescription, and it gives you enough of the medication that you can get out of the office and find a pharmacy with the lowest prices for your insurance or other payment situation.

8. Ask for a generic alternative prescription

Another option is to ask for a generic alternative prescription, especially since $4 prescriptions have become prevalent at many pharmacies. If there’s a generic alternative for your prescription, switching to that medication can save you a significant amount of money.

9. If you’re getting bloodwork done, ask for some general screenings

Almost always, your doctor will happily oblige, mark a few more spots on the bloodwork form, and your out of pocket cost will remain the same while you get more personal medical information. This is always a good thing to do, no matter what your perspective is on your general state of health, as it can flag problems that are coming down the road.

10. Thank your doctor and nurse

This seems trivial to some, but it can make a big difference to your doctor and nurse. Medical professionals have to deal with unimaginable stuff on a daily basis and it’s quite often a thankless job (even if the pay is solid). Many doctors are faced with belligerent patients, heart-wrenching (and sometimes stomach-wrenching) situations, and often go home to face a giant stack of medical school bills. Take a moment to sincerely thank your medical professionals for the work they do – it can make a big difference in their day.

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