I recently brought my 2-year-old daughter in for a checkup before she heads to preschool for the first time. I hadn't been there in six months for a regular visit, so I had a list of questions I wanted to talk to the pediatrician about -- potty training, vaccines, eating habits. After the appointment, although most of my questions were answered, I still left feeling like I wanted more face time.
I came across a news release featuring tips on how to make the most of your child's doctor visits, from Hannah Chow, a pediatrician from Loyola University Health System. Here are some of my favorite timesaving tips that I hope to keep in mind at my daughter's next checkup.
1. Cut to the chase
Chow suggests sharing your concerns right away and ask your most important questions first. “We know you are busy, so if you skip the small talk we don’t mind," she said in a news release. "I've had patients talk to me about smaller issues, and by the time I'm ready to close the visit they say, 'What I really wanted to talk about is . . .' This makes it difficult to discuss what's really concerning you or your child."
2. Stick to your three most important concerns
A typical visit lasts 15 minutes, including the examination, so by limiting your concerns you have a much better chance of getting a thoughtful, thorough answer, said Chow. "What might seem like a simple concern to a patient, for example, headaches, involves many detailed questions on the physician's part and a more thorough examination compared to other issues," she said. "If there are longer, more complicated issues it might be good to schedule a second visit to discuss things further."
3. Make good use of the office nurse
“A physician's nurse is invaluable," said Chow. "They are a wealth of information. If you want to speak to a physician directly, first talk with the nurse, who can help you in a more timely manner." Many pediatricians can't answer phone calls until the end of the day.
4. Update your information
Always verify your phone number and address so the pediatrician can call you with results, discussions and questions.
5. Never assume no news is good news regarding tests, labs, X-rays, etc.
“I always ask all patients to call us for all results," she said. "There are times I can't get a hold of patients, whether through wrong phone numbers, incorrect addresses, not receiving messages, full voicemail boxes or language barriers." Always contact your doctor's office if you do not receive a result in the expected time frame, said Chow.
6. Fill out papers to the best of your ability
The more details you can provide, the more you fill out, the faster you will get your paperwork back, especially during the back-to-school season.
7. Don't bring too many friends
Some pediatricians get distracted if there's too much noise or activity in the room. "One time I had seven kids tearing apart paper, looking into crevices, touching all the instruments and one very tired adult half asleep in the chair," said Chow. "If you have family members who will contribute to the discussion, bring them. But, depending on what you want to accomplish, use your best judgment as far as who should accompany you."
8. Schedule annual physicals early
Try to make back-to-school appointments in early summer. If you wait too long doctors' offices are packed, said Chow. "With so many back-to-back appointments it’s even harder for doctors to give each patient the time and attention they want to give and that you and your child deserve.”