March 25, 2010 at 10:49 am , by Emily Chau
He just won’t listen. I don’t understand him. He never hears me out. Sound familiar? I’m not talking about your relationship with your husband. I’m talking about the one with your doctor.
You get an average of 20 minutes of face-time with your physician. That seems like barely enough time to get all your body parts checked out, let alone discuss any health questions you might have. The good news: you don’t have to wait for health care reform to take effect to make over your relationship with your doc. LHJ talked to actress Andie MacDowell and Richard Carmona, M.D., president of Canyon Ranch Institute and the 17th Surgeon General of the United States, about how you can get the most out of your doctor’s visit.
ANDIE MacDOWELL’s STORY
> I was 23 when my mother died from a heart attack. She was 53 and I’m going to be 52 in April. The closer I got to her age, I started to get very anxious that maybe I had a defective heart in some way.
> I had all these questions about my heart and I was never really getting all the answers.
> I’ve always felt very intimidated by my doctors, and I even felt like I was an inconvenience. It doesn’t sound logical, but I think it happens to a lot of people where they feel intimidated. You have a short amount of time, and you leave feeling that you really didn’t learn what you wanted to learn.
> At the end of the appointment repeat to the doctor what he has said to you. You can say to the doctor, “OK. I want to be sure that I understand what you’ve told me,” and you kind of sum everything up before you leave. I think that can help a lot of people not stress out.
> When I was younger I used to exercise because I wanted to look a certain way, but now my motivation for exercise is really different. It’s about staying healthy and keeping my heart strong.
DR. CARMONA’S TIPS
> Before the appointment think about what you want to talk about with your doctor and write it down. The website Time to Talk CARDIO also has some useful videos and tools that can help you prep for your doctor’s visit.
> During the appointment ask questions until you’re satisfied. Repeat to your physician what you heard her say and what you should do to make sure you’re on the same page.
> After your appointment think through your encounter. Did you get the info you absolutely wanted? If you didn’t, shoot your doctor an email or call a staff person to follow up.
Photo courtesy Porter Novelli
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