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The Incredible Shrinking Doctor's Appointment

During Your Appointment

Your doctor is busy—and unfortunately, you're bound to feel a little rushed once he enters the room. "Doctors are pressed for time, so they're focused on getting to an endpoint," says Dr. King. In fact, research has found that physicians interrupt their patients within the first 18 to 23 seconds of speaking, so it's crucial for you to be concise and avoid rambling. "Have your opening statement ready," says Agnew. For instance: "I'm having pelvic pain and am worried I might have fibroids" or "I fell and hurt my knee, and I think I may have torn a ligament." In your statement (make it one or two sentences tops), explain not only what the problem is but also why you're worried about it. If you have multiple issues to discuss, mention that in your opening statement as well by saying, "There are three things I want to talk about today," so your doctor doesn't spend the whole time on the first problem.

If you are interrupted while explaining your problem, quickly redirect your doctor. "It might help if I told you the rest of the story first" is assertive—but still polite. You also shouldn't shy away from stopping your doctor if he's speaking a language you can't understand. "Doctors live in the world of medical jargon," says Dr. King. "You should always feel comfortable interrupting and asking what something means."

Another option to consider, especially for appointments that involve a lot of new information: Take along to your appointment a family member or friend who can help interpret the doctor's advice, brainstorm questions or take notes. "A lot of patients get very nervous and anxious in the exam room, so having someone there can help," says Dr. Alumbaugh.

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