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7 Little Things You Can Do To Make Life Easier For Your Doctor

As told by an actual GP.

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1. Decide what you want to say before you go in.

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When I’m going to my doctor, I think though what I want to discuss while I’m sitting in the waiting room, or beforehand, with family or friends. I know how helpful it is when patients are able to tell me clearly why they have come.

Say what you want to say in your own words though – don’t try to second guess what the doctor wants to hear, or use medical jargon. I need to hear things from your point of view.

Stick to your main story at this stage if you can – don’t worry too much about forgetting to mention every tiny detail; if there are important medical gaps we need to fill in, I am trained to ask you those key questions.

2. Let the doctor know early on about any worries or thoughts you may have.

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I want to find out if you have any thoughts about what’s going on, if you have any particular worries about it, and what you are thinking or hoping might be the next steps.

You may not have any strong feelings on the matter, and of course that’s fine. But if you do have any ideas or worries – however daft they may seem to you – don’t be afraid to mention them. If I don’t know what’s on your mind, I can’t address it.

3. Jot down key problems or symptoms and take the list in with you.

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You may be feeling anxious or vulnerable, and aware of the clock ticking. It’s easy to forget what you wanted to say. Jotting down a few bullet points can be extremely helpful. Seeing lists of symptoms can help me a lot – I can sometimes spot patterns that might suggest a diagnosis.

But if you’re bringing lists of unrelated problems or tasks, be realistic about what can be achieved in ten minutes. Be prepared to share your list with the doctor at the start of the appointment – that way we can decide between us what should take priority in our ten minute meeting.

If you think you may need longer than ten minutes, ask reception if you can book a double appointment – sometimes that’s possible.

4. Have an up-to-date list of all medication you're taking.

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More and more of us are taking several medications these days; one in six people over the age of sixty-five are now taking ten or more drugs. When people see various doctors for different conditions it can easily cause confusion about what medications you should be on.

So although we have records of your medication on our system, it’s always helpful to know what you (or your relative) actually takes every day. An up to date list is great.

5. Think about what you wear to the appointment.

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If I know I am going to have my blood pressure checked, or I need a blood test, I’ll make sure I am wearing a shirt with sleeves that I can easily roll up. It saves time.

If you are coming with an elderly relative who may need an examination of some sort, see if they can wear clothes that are relatively easy to un-do and do up if you can.

6. If you think it would help you, bring someone you trust to the appointment for support.

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Sometimes it can really help if you have someone with you to make sure you get your message over, and who can make a note of what was said. There’s often a lot of information to take in and it’s easy to forget what you were going to say, so a trusty friend or relative can often help you make the most of the appointment. Sometimes it’s just about having someone there for moral support.

7. If something isn't clear by the end of the appointment, ask.

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I’m trained to check that you have understood any explanations or any plans we have made. But we are all human and in the rush of the ten-minute appointment it’s easy to forget to ask you if you have any queries. So don’t be afraid to ask questions if something isn’t clear to you. I would much rather spend a little extra time addressing your query than have you go away confused or unclear.

Dr Graham Easton is a practising GP, Fellow of the Royal College of General Practitioners and a Senior Clinical Teaching Fellow at Imperial College Medical School where he trains medical students and junior doctors in general practice. Profile photo by Melanie Moss Photography.

Contact Dr Graham Easton at kelly.oakes+grahameaston@buzzfeed.com.

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