I wonder how often a patient says “It’s OK that the doctor rushed me, I’m one of 80 people he has to see today. Besides, he has hours of follow-up paperwork on top of that. He’s very busy.

Probably not very often. It’s in our nature to want “good service” and want to be heard. We don’t usually blame what feels like bad service on the troubles our doctors have outside of our appointment.

As a patient, I have felt frustrated when a doctor didn’t spend enough time with me. Sometimes issues I believed to be important were glossed over. To address this frustration, I’ve thought a lot about how to prepare for medical appointments in order to ‘wring’ as much as possible out of the time allotted for the meeting.

But it’s not just patients who are frustrated by the lack of time, so are doctors. And the disturbing thing is that in most instances, their hands are tied. They simply don’t have the resources to offer us more.

I have met many doctors who openly express great frustration at the lack of time they have with patients. In order to meet a minimum daily quota, and even attempt to break even, they sometimes have to slot patients into 15 minute segments. It’s very hard to effectively treat patients this way. But it’s that, or go out of business.

Without vilifying insurance companies, I’m of the opinion that they have made it very hard for doctors to practice and make a living. Whether it be reduced payments on claims, or excessive administrative requirements to file claims, the process of dealing with insurance companies—so doctors can get paid—is a nightmare for most doctors.

So… both doctor and patient end up feeling crunched.

My attempt to navigate the challenge of limited time with my doctor has been to know my personal health facts by having them written down and with me. I also think through my questions in advance of the meeting, and again have them written down and with me. I go to medical appointments with the same level of prep that one might go to a job interview. It may seem extreme but in my experience this preparation has paid off time and time again.

Being prepared for the meeting with your doctor by finding a concise way to tell your story is a worthwhile exercise to help minimize the effects of being between a rock and hard place in terms of time. It also frees up the time you do have, to allow the doctor to treat you. Of course, that’s just my opinion.

So, what does it mean to be prepared?

  1. Think about your visit beforehand, not just on the drive there (or in the waiting room). Take a moment the night before to note what you’d like to get out of the meeting. You’d be surprised how many relevant questions will pop into your mind the night before (and how few during the visit). Write those questions down on something you take with you.
  2. Know your own health facts:
    • your basic critical stats (height, weight, blood type, and yes, age),
    • what ongoing conditions you have, or have had, and
    • what medications you take, including dosage and frequency.
  3. Prepare to engage with your doctor. Don’t be a bump on a log. You and your doctor have limited time, so help him work through the issues efficiently. Help him get through data collection so he can move on to solving the problems.

This is one of the reasons we created ExpressWell.

It’s a really effective tool for doctor visits and other medical situations. I use it to organize my information, and as a prompt during my visit to ask relevant questions. Because it’s on my iPhone, I don’t forget it when I leave my apartment for the appointment. Tools like ExpressWell really help both doctors and patients navigate the choppy waters of the compressed appointment.

By Alexandra Yperifanos
ExpressWell, Inc.

3 Responses to “Scylla and Charybdis: The Doctor’s Dilemma and How Patients Can Help”

  1. Andrew says:

    Thank you, Alexandra!

    “Don’t be a bump on a log.” I couldn’t have said it better.

    Andrew Hill
    ExpressWell, Inc.

  2. William Franklin says:

    A few years ago I had a doctor who corrected some details in my chart, because I remembered to bring my own copy of my health information. It turned out my blood type had been improperly entered. Together we confirmed my blood type and entered it correctly on his record (it was already correct on mine). I can’t stress how important it is that people do this.

  3. Andrew says:

    William, thank you for your comment. We have heard many stories like this, so it’s nice to have someone step up and share their story in a public forum. We hope yours and other cautionary tales will encourage patients to take control of their personal health information!

    Andrew Hill
    ExpressWell, Inc.