Make the most of your medical visit

A New York Times op-ed from this summer described marijuana dispensaries as a model for effective medical care. The praise, of course, was not about marijuana at all, but rather how they are organized in such a way as to provide greater service to their patients. Specifically, the marijuana dispensaries know that the medical provider has limited time to address the concerns of the patient, so they make sure that the support staff can fill in to answer any lingering questions or concerns.

This got me thinking about what patients can do to make sure that their medical provider answers their most important questions. What can they do to maximize their time during their medical visit, regardless of whether the experience lasts for 15 minutes or an hour? Well, here are a few tips on how to get the most out of your next visit – whether it’s a clinic, a hospital, or yes, even a marijuana dispensary:

1. Make a list of your questions and concerns and prioritize them.

One of the most frustrating things for both provider and patient is not getting to what needs to be addressed during a visit. No matter how long the visit, you and your provider still won’t be able to cover every aspect of your health. Listing and prioritizing your questions/concerns ahead of time ensures that the most important aren’t missed.

2. Ask about medication side effects.

The benefits of taking any medication need to be weighed against its side effects, and only you can ultimately decide if it’s worth it.

3. Ask about treatment options.

From alternative medications to lifestyle changes, to doing nothing, discussing your options and understanding the benefits and risks of each is as much your responsibility as it is your provider’s. Insist on having this discussion.

4. Be able to repeat back to the provider the plan of care.

This is simply a way to prove that you understand your care plan. It’s frightening how often patients don’t know why they are on a certain medication. The medical provider may think you understand, but you may have no clue! Again, it’s as much your responsibility as it is your provider’s to ensure understanding, so when in doubt ask questions.

The more time a patient and provider have, the better the communication; however, the better the communication, the less time the patient needs to have a worthwhile experience. Advocating for yourself and coming with a plan will help ensure that you get the best care – for you.

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