Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Pediatrician Visit, By Laura K. Whitney MD
Be On Time
Most offices schedule patients for a set appointment length, such as 10 or 15 minutes, beginning at the given appointment time and including time for paperwork, initial evaluation by a nurse, and time with the doctor. When you arrive after your appointment time, some of the allotted time has already passed. This means the doctor may have less time to deal with your concerns, and if the visit cannot be completed in the scheduled time, the next patient will have to wait longer for his appointment.
Know the names and dosages of all your child’s medications, including over-the-counter medications and vitamins or supplements. If the primary caregiver cannot be present, make sure the adult bringing the child to the doctor has all the details of the child’s medical history and current symptoms. It is most helpful to send a written list of all pertinent information, along with any questions you would like answered. Do not rely on medical files already at the office as it takes considerable time to review old records. Missing details could hinder the diagnosis and treatment of any current problems. The majority of the visit should be spent addressing the issues of the day, not reconstructing what happened in the past.
Providing complete information to your doctor is essential. Without it, the correct diagnosis may be delayed or missed altogether. Your pediatrician is not sitting in judgment: if she has been in practice for a while, be assured she has heard it all. Do not omit any medications or other treatments you have given the child, and if your child has seen a specialist or other provider, be sure to mention it. Report all symptoms accurately and answer questions truthfully, even if the answer is embarrassing. You may ask to speak with the pediatrician independently of the child if you wish to convey sensitive information, or a teen may request to talk with the doctor while his parents wait outside.
Be Present, Even for Teen Visits
It is appropriate for teens to have time alone with the pediatrician, so they can open up about issues they would rather not discuss in front of a parent. However, teens may not know all the details of their personal medical histories or those of their families. They may not clearly communicate parental concerns to the doctor, or they may fail to report the results of the visit to the parent. Also, while teens are legally allowed to receive certain medical treatments without parental permission, these generally don’t include routine vaccinations, which are given at some teen well checks. For these reasons, an adult should be present with the teen at the beginning of the visit and remain in the waiting room until the visit is complete.
Dr. Whitney is a general pediatrician with The Children’s Medical Center, PA in Greenville, SC. Her interests include toddler feeding issues and helping children develop healthy habits.
Posts and advice from doctors to patients