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8 Ways To Get The Most From Your Doctor’s Visit

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8 Ways To Get The Most From Your Doctor’s Visit

You may wish you could spend a whole hour with your doctor, feeling relaxed and unhurried while your doctor lays healing hands on you. You may fantasize about asking all of the questions on your list, getting every question answered, and having time to pick your doctorís brain about the print outs you brought in from the internet search you did so you could be an informed consumer of health care services.† You may dream of truly understanding your diagnosis, having time to check in with your intuition about the treatment options your doctor recommends, and feeling confident that youíve made the right decision about whatís best for the body nobody knows better than you.

13 Minutes

But the cold hard truth is that, in a health care system dominated by managed care restrictions that require many doctors to see more than 40 patients per day, the average doctorís visit now lasts 13 minutes. That means some will be a mere 5 minutes long, and only a lucky few will get 30 minutes with their doctors.

I know. It sucks. You deserve more time. You deserve to feel like youíre the center of your doctorís world, with as much time as you need in order to optimize your health and well-being.

I can tell you that your doctor wishes there was more time too. You doctor wants to sit next to you without a clock or a nurse banging on the door or a pager going off or a waiting room full of patients that will be pissed off if you spend too much time with any one patient. (I know. I was once one of those doctors, and I can attest to the fact that doctors are as frustrated with the system as you are.)

But until we revolutionize health care (trust me! Iím trying!), 13 minutes is what weíve got, so itís our responsibility to make the most of it.

8 Ways To Optimize Your Doctorís Visit

1. Do your homework.

The internet can be confusing, but when you know how to use it properly, it can also be an awesome source of medical information that can prepare you to make the most of your 13 minutes.† According to Pew Internet, 80 percent of internet users search for health information online. Google alone serves up 1.2 billion health searches per month.† But thereís no regulation of the information youíll find, and surveys show that fewer than 50 percent of searchers actually find the information useful. Many people type in their medical questions (How do you get herpes? Is it safe to eat tuna when youíre pregnant? How high is too high for my childís fever?) directly into Google. But the results you get depend on which site has the highest Google ranking, not who is delivering the most reliable answer to your question.

So where can you go for trusted medical advice online? I have good news! Iím so committed to empowering patients to take responsibility for their health that Iím partnering with† to launch the No Question Left Unanswered Campaign. Our goal is to provide one million trusted answers in 2012 to your health care questions – for free.† Youíll be able to type your medical question directly into and have it answered by a licensed physician – not just any olí doctor, but one whose credentials you can check out on comprehensive profiles which include patient and client reviews, as well as peer endorsements.

While the internet can never replace the one-on-one, individualized care youíll get from the doctor who knows you and can lay hands on you, websites like can educate you so you know which questions to save for your 13 minutes. So go ahead. Donít be shy.†Ask your burning question here and you might even win a free spot at my Heal Yourself, Heal The World retreat at yoga center Feathered Pipe Ranch in Montana this summer!

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Lissa Rankin

Lissa Rankin, MD is a mind-body medicine physician, founder of the†Whole Health Medicine Institute training program for physicians and other health care providers, and the New York Times bestselling author of†Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof That You Can Heal Yourself.† She is on a grassroots mission to heal health care, while empowering you to heal yourself.† Lissa blogs at† and also created two online communities -† and† She is also the author of two other books, a professional artist, an amateur ski bum, and an avid hiker. Lissa lives in the San Francisco Bay area with her husband and daughter.


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2:21PM PST on Dec 11, 2012


1:42PM PDT on Jun 12, 2012


1:56PM PDT on Mar 19, 2012

Lucky you Howard! I also live in the UK and although I've found all the GPs I've had to be very nice people, I haven't found them to be very good doctors. My own private theory is that they're so overworked that they don't have time to use their brains, or even listen when I try to use mine. I think my two worst examples of this was when I kept getting dizzy and faint when I was at work and my doctor's response was, "Hmm...I don't know what you should do. Come back if it gets worse?" Another time my skin broke out in really horrible, painful acne after I had a bad case of the stomach flu so I went to a different doctor to see what could be done and was prescribed antibiotics. I went away and took them for a month, if anything my skin got worse and I started thinking maybe the stomach flu had thrown my stomach flora out of whack. I went back to the doctor and was told that was a silly idea and to keep taking the antibiotics. Two months later nothing had changed. I went back to the doctor and was told the same thing. Then I got fed up and stopped taking the antibiotics and started taking acidophilus and my skin was clear in two weeks...I won't even go into how they've been running my mother around in circles the past couple of weeks. She suddenly can't walk and all the specialists keep saying is, "I don't know what's wrong. I don't think it's my department. Go talk to someone else."

9:36AM PDT on Mar 15, 2012


2:34AM PDT on Mar 13, 2012

I'm fortunate to have an excellent South African-trained doctor in Canada. He is very open to continuing to learn and to reading up on latest medical findings.
Many years ago when I was much younger and worked in a very stressful environment and had lots of responsibilities. I had a wonderful older doctor who knew exactly what 20-30 year old ladies needed for coping with their busy careers. He used to hold my hand in a fatherly way - we would talk and my stress would simply evaporate. I went back to work with a smile.

7:33PM PST on Mar 9, 2012


11:24AM PST on Mar 9, 2012

If I visit my doctor and she can see I need more time she'll schedule a double-time for me.

9:28AM PST on Mar 9, 2012


12:06AM PST on Mar 9, 2012

Thank you Lissa for the honesty and for sharing your long accumulated wisdom! I hope this article reaches as many people as possible - it will make life a lot easier and uncomplicated for both patients and doctors. Good luck with Avvo!

2:31PM PST on Mar 8, 2012

I live in England where much (no longer all) of our health care is free at point of delivery (it is hard to get free dental care and free optical care is only available to those on very low incomes - nothing is free of course, we pay through our taxes). Generally I find our doctors (both in local practice and in hospital) to be pretty good. I have several chronic (long-term) conditions which I have learned a fair bit about over the years,the doctors I try to establish a mutually respectful relationship which so far has worked for me.

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