Welcome to Part IV of our series brought to you by Mark Lachs, MD, Author of Treat Me, Not My Age: A Doctor’s Guide to Getting the Best Care as You or a Loved One Gets Older
Prioritize your complaints. Many patients I see have a laundry list of issues that they find overwhelming. Believe me, it can be overwhelming for us, too, as we do our best to help you with ten problems in the fifteen minutes the system may have allotted us. (You can see why meds get dispensed and specialists are invoked indiscriminately.) The expression “Rome wasn’t built in a day” applies in this case. You need to be practical. If you wind up spending only a minute or two of your precious office-visit time on each of a smorgasbord of issues, none of them will get solved. My suggestion: a top-three list. I encourage new patients to do this: I might say something like “I see from your list, Mrs. Smith, that a number of things are bothering you. If you were forced to pick the top three things I could most help with, what would they be?” Or I might provide orientation myself: “Today I’m going to focus on the arthritis pain you’ve been calling about, and if we have time, I’ll explain the results of the cholesterol tests you had when you were here last visit. Does that sound reasonable?” Everybody’s happier when expectations are managed.