Does Your Doctor Have Time to Diagnose You Correctly?

In All Health Watch, Featured Article, General Health by INH Research

When was the last time you got even ten minutes with your doctor? Think about it…

The doctor isn’t performing any of the actual exams anymore. That takes too much time. And he (or she) doesn’t talk to you about them either. He just reviews your exams and background on a computer before speaking to you.

Then once he’s in your room, he uses subtle tricks to cut down on time. Forget about introductions or open-ended questions. Don’t expect one to sit down either. That can lead to lengthy conversations. Heaven forbid! And doctors certainly don’t encourage family discussion with whoever else may be in the room.1

Blame it on rising health costs. And it isn’t something doctors can just fix even if they wanted to. Government mandates limit doctors to the number of hours they can work. Meanwhile they still have to see the same number of patients, just in less time.

So what do they do? They take one look at you and decide their diagnosis on the spot. More or less.2

That’s right, your health is partially determined based on what you look like on that given day. Granted, your appearance should play some kind of role…but should it really be one of the most important factors? Of course not! But your doctor has roughly eight minutes to diagnose you so he has to use what he can. And those rushed eight minutes aren’t just annoying. The fallout can be downright dangerous…

More medical treatment is not always better. It’s estimated that $700 billion of our $2 trillion annual health spending is wasted on unnecessary practices.4 Doctors often order tests to placate patients, increase profits, or to avoid possible malpractice suits. Educate yourself so you don’t fall victim. For a list of questionable tests visit www.choosingwisely.org.

Eight out of ten misdiagnoses result from those time constraints with physicians.3 The limited face time can lead to errors. Patients don’t have the time to give accurate medical histories and doctors don’t consult experts. They have poor follow-up rates on test results and can misinterpret symptoms because they’re rushed.

With office visits lasting no more than eight minutes, you have to make the most out of your time. What can you do?

Bring a written list of your symptoms, medications, medical history, and any questions you have.
Be as specific as you can. If you had a fever, tell them the time, length, and any other symptoms you may have had. The more concise you can be, the better the doctor can treat you.

If you don’t understand something the doctor is saying ask him to repeat it. Don’t be shy. Take notes to compare one visit to the next. Ask for a visit summary printout.

Make sure you’re comfortable with your doctor. If you feel too rushed or that your doctor isn’t providing the care you need, ask for more time or research, and find a different doctor. Consider visiting a naturopathic doctor. They tend to be more attentive and are willing to spend extra time with the patient.

Just remember, you are the one paying for your visit. Keep asking questions until you’re satisfied.

And while you’re at it, it probably wouldn’t be such a bad idea to look your best that day too. Just in case.

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References:
1 http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/05/30/for-new-doctors-8-minutes-per-patient/
2 http://www.amednews.com/article/20130311/profession/130319973/2/
3 http://archinte.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1656536
4 http://www.cnn.com/2012/04/11/opinion/pho-health-spending