Doctor and patient in exam room

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Don't Wait Until You're in a Paper Gown to Think About Why You're There
Most residents are taught to let the patient set the agenda, says Charles Brackett, MD, a general internist at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and a clinical liaison with the university's Center for Shared Decision Making. That's why doctors often start with an open-ended statement like, "Let's talk about why you're here today." But many patients haven't thought through what they want to say ("I started feeling it last Tuesday...or was it the week before?"). Even specific follow-up questions, like "where exactly does it hurt?" can stump unprepared patients.
DO rehearse. Before the visit, think about what happened and when (consult your calendar), how to describe your symptoms (how, where and at what level you feel pain), your medical history and how you've been treating the problem, says Brackett. He suggests writing down two or three goals for your visit (e.g., to get a diagnosis or to discuss treatment options) instead of playing things by ear. Be realistic, though. "Sometimes we'll see a patient with a list of 20 goals, and most will require separate appointments," he says.