The healthcare system is going to have a huge hiccough up in the next few years. The Affordable Care Act or Obamacare is going to pump 20-40 million new patients into the healthcare system. Many of these new patients are going to need more medical services as they have gone for so many years without insurance and without medical care. As a result your doctor is going to have less time to spend with each of his\her patients. In addition to the new patients in the healthcare system, the aging of the population and the millions baby boomers who are reaching 65 will be requiring more medical care. This is compounded by the fact that there is not going to be a proportionate increase in new physicians produced in the medical schools to care for the increase in the number of patients requiring care.
Look around you when you go to the doctor’s office. Do you notice that the older doctors are retiring early? Other physicians re looking for new ways to make adjustments to increase efficiency including: conducting shared medical appointments and seeing large numbers of patients with the same medical condition or considering a similar treatment, doctors establishing concierge practices in order to spend more time with fewer patients, or delegating responsibilities to physician assistants and\or nurse practioners.
So what can you do to become a better patient and help the doctor with efficiency?
Here are a few ideas to make you a darling of your physician.
1) Write out a list of questions that you would like answered on your encounter with your doctor. You can ask your doctor if he\she would like this E mailed, FAXed, or handed to the doctor at the time of your visit
2) Show up on time. Don’t be delayed for your visit and disrupt the doctor’s schedule. If you cancel your appointment or going to be delayed, contact the office so they can adjust the schedule or contact another patient to take your time slot
3) If you are a new patient to the practice, arrive early and complete your patient information and your health questionnaire so you are ready for the appointment at the designated time. This can also be done online and assists in making your visit more efficient.
4) Ask at the beginning of your appointment how much time will be allotted to your visit. If you have more issues and questions, offer to schedule a second appointment as this allows the doctor to remain on time for his other patients.
5. If the doctor makes recommendations or prescribes medication that has side effects that you would consider intolerable, tell the doctor so an alternate plan of action can be created.
6. Check your list of questions and see if other healthcare professionals such as the pharmacist or the nurse practioner can answer some of them.
7. Ask your doctor for educational material so you might become more knowledgeable about your condition. This will impress the doctor that you are interested in becoming a partner in your care. Also ask the doctor for any credible Internet sites that you might visit to learn more about your condition. Going to the Internet and doing your own surfing might lead you to information that is not accurate or misleading. The doctor should be able to provide you with education and Internet sites that will be helpful.
7. Finally, end every appointment with a question such as, “Is there anything else I should have asked that would help with my treatment or my health?” This clearly lets the doctor know that you are engaged and interested in your health and well-being. Also, ask the doctor if there is anything you can do to improve the efficiency of your visit. I can assure you that few other patients are this considerate of the doctor’s time and you will, indeed, by a darling and special patient of the practice.
I was very moved as a young boy when John F. Kennedy ended his inaugural speech by saying, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what can you do for your country.” Perhaps this could be modified for patients in 2014 and beyond by thinking, “Ask not what your doctor can do for you, but what can you do for your doctor!”