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  • Writer's pictureLawrence Lau

How To Get The Most Out Of Your GP Appointment

It can be frustrating when you are feeling unwell or have symptoms that you need addressed by your GP. In order to ensure you get the most out of your doctor appointment within the time allotted, follow these simple tips below to make life that little bit easier in times of need to have you on the road to recovery quicker!

Keep time in mind (and be on time):

As it is advisable to write down and make note of the issues you would like to discuss with your GP during your appointment, it is equally as advised to be conscious of time. Each consultation is apportioned for 15 minutes, ideally to deal with 1 to 2 maximum problems. Bear in mind within this 15 minutes the doctor will need to take full appropriate history and detailed history to find the possible root cause of the problem; followed by examination, arranging investigations, referrals, prescriptions, sharing back and explaining to the patient about the management plan and necessary follow ups.

Know your issues, but don’t bring a shopping list:

Begin your consultation by picking the most pressing problem to discuss first, but keep in mind your 15 minute time frame and don’t bring a shopping list of problems that will not realistically be addressed within the time frame of your appointment. Your doctor can help you prioritise your problem lists and then he/she may be able to advise what is most important and what they are realistically able to deal with within the booked appointment time. If the doctor has no other patient waiting, he/she will gladly help you with all your required problems, however during busy periods it is unfair for other patients to wait long times who also have their own commitments and work to attend to. You may consider booking a double appointment if required but be aware of realistic problem lists vs. time required to manage them.

Think ahead:

If you have a hunch what your symptoms may mean before having your doctor confirm them, try to think ahead about what your GP may need to speed up your diagnosis. For example, if you have familiar symptoms of an ailment you have had before, for example symptoms of a kidney infection, bring a urine sample so as your doctor can medically test it immediately, saving time during your appointment to discuss next steps. Noting the dosages of any medications you are on already is also good to have noted.

Bear in mind potential waiting times:

Keep in mind expected waiting times when you are visiting your doctor. Waiting times in other medical centres for walk-ins has been reported as up to 4 hours; and walk ins in our medical centre have not passed 2. If the doctor is delayed in keeping your appointment time, please consider the following:

The doctor may be handling with an acute emergency which caused a delay.There may be patient who was suicidal and had severe need to have more time spent with them.The doctor may have received a call from hospital which required time to discuss with the consultant, for which time has not been factored into their schedule. This can then indirectly lead to delays in consultation times.There may have been a patient who required more time which cannot be resolved by booking another appointment.There may have been a language barrier which required translation which would take more time than usual.

If you feel you are unable to wait, please let the receptionists know and this will be communicated to your doctor so that he/she is aware. However, if you cannot wait and would like to rebook an appointment for another, less busier time, feel free to cancel and rebook again. The receptionists in a clinic can help to gauge who will be seen next and how many are before you before being seen.

Understand your diagnosis:

It’s important that when you leave your appointment you have a full understanding of your diagnosis and/or the medications you have been prescribed to assist you with it. It can sometimes be hard to remember everything your GP tells you about your ailment, or the medications they are prescribing you, but simply jotting down quick points summarising the advice you’ve been given is a good way for you to remember what to do next. Understanding your diagnosis and knowing your next steps will help you get the most out of your advice, as well as helping your doctor ensure you fully understand the issue so you can be on a quicker road to recovery.

Find a familiar face:

Attending a familiar GP within a practice has many benefits. If you visit a doctor who you have built a rapport with and who is familiar with your previous health information, it can lead to quicker diagnoses and better understanding, especially if you have children and family attending the same clinic and GP. Visiting the same GP also alleviates the lengthy task of having to go into detail about your health in the past and any areas of concern your GP would need to know about, saving everyone time. Having a comfortable and familiar relationship with your doctor can help you also feel more relaxed when explaining your issues and allows your GP to develop a deeper understanding of you and your medical health.

Be honest and leave embarrassment at the door:

When asked follow-up questions during your consultation, be as honest as you can when answering as this will help your GP diagnose your issue quicker. No answer or question is stupid or ‘wrong’, and no ailment embarrassing. Your doctor is a professional who understands all medical issues and the nuances of them. Keep in mind they most likely hear the same symptoms from other patients very regularly, so you have nothing to worry or be embarrassed about.

Note the history of your symptoms:

If your issue has occurred a few times, it is best to have kept a track record of it over time. Try to be accurate with your dates/timings and provide them as clear as you can; last week, month, began three months ago, etc. Note down in a diary the occurrence of the symptoms, as well as trying to note if the symptoms arise after doing something in particular, to help your GP get to the root of your issue quicker.

Know your next steps:

Above all, when you are leaving your appointment the one thing of foremost importance is to know your next steps of action. Whether that be a trip to the pharmacist to fill your prescription, a note of steps to make for a healthier diet, or general advice given by your GP to lead to a better you, having full understanding and knowledge of your next steps is integral to your recovery, so that your medical diagnosis and advice can get you back to feeling like you.

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