06/26/2014 08:31 EDT | Updated 08/26/2014 05:59 EDT

How to Get the Most From Your Family Doctor Appointment

Female pediatrician checking child's throath

On average, physicians run about an hour behind schedule, which can be frustrating and trying on parents and children. When you finally see the doctor, you want to make sure you are prepared and ready to get all your questions answered. Leaving the office feeling like you forgot to ask a particular question, or not reassured is an awful feeling!

I am often asked how patients can best prepare for office visits with me. Busy parents don't have time to wait hours to see the doctor, only to forget important questions. Make your visit count!

Here are some tricks to make your pediatrician or family doctor visit most efficient and useful:

1. Keep notes of questions you have. Especially when you are sleep deprived and rushed, you will be hard-pressed to remember that last question. Even if your doctor can't answer every one at the visit, at least you can ask the most pertinent ones if they are written in front of you.

2. Prioritize. Many physicians expect to answer one or two questions, not pages worth. So ask your most pressing questions first.

3. Try to ensure your kids are well fed and well rested. If they are bouncing off the walls, you will be distracted and won't get the most out of your visit. I notice that when kids are upset or hyper parents aren't really able to listen to what I'm saying anyway, so asking questions is pointless.

4. Bargain tactfully (with your child). Find something your child really wants. This might be a treat, a sticker, or a promise of a trip to somewhere fun. Whatever you can use to bribe your child, use it now. The calmer and happier your child is, the better the experience will be.

5. If your questions refer to something you don't require an exam for, try leaving your child at home if you are able. Many parents see me on their own for questions about their child's development or behavior. It is quiet and undistracted.

6. Become friendly with the office staff. The receptionist and office admin can change your experience dramatically. Buddying with them can lead to better appointment times, quicker replies to your phone calls or emails and more expedient care when you're in the office. Being nice is just, nice.

7. Try to become familiar with your doctor's least busy day of the week and time of day. Many of us are more rushed on Monday a.m. and Friday p.m., when patients are seeing us around the weekend. If you are friendly with the office staff (see #6) they may give you some insight.

8. Be the parent we love. Be courteous, on time, kind, and patient. We are human too, and respond well to positive reinforcement. If you are aggressive or demanding we are not likely going to want to go the extra mile to help you. A smile or a happy disposition will serve you well.

Now that you are armed with the tools to make your visit most useful for your family and child, it will be a little more enjoyable at the doctor's office!

For more on how to pick the 'best doctor' for your family click here.


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