09 May 2018

4 numbers you need to know next time you have to see the doctor

Know these numbers so you can hack the waiting room and your appointment.

Your life may depend on this hurry-up healthcare offensive, so it's a good idea to know these numbers so you can hack the waiting room and your appointment.

1. The waiting room


According to the American Medical Association, that’s the average amount of time you spend in the germ-filled waiting room. A study in the Journal of Medical Virology reports that cold viruses can linger for 24-plus hours on hard surfaces, so bring your own pen and magazine.

And while you (should) know that touching your mouth with a contaminated hand can spread gastrointestinal viruses, head- and chest-cold viruses can enter through membranes in your eyes and nose, too. So if you touch any surface, don’t rub your eyes or scratch your nose until you’ve treated your hands with sanitiser.

Read more: 6 solutions to common problems you have with your doctor – and how to get the most out of your appointment

2. Doctor time


That’s the average length of time a doctor spends with each patient. Your preparation for the doctor shouldn’t be just booking the appointment – carefully record your symptoms beforehand. Once inside, monitor who’s guiding the consultation. While you’re here for expert advice, don’t let the precious minutes be dominated so you’re out the door before you’ve gotten any answers.

You can maximise that time by taking advantage of an often-underutilised ally – the nurse. “Nurses are better educated on ways to help patients understand,” says Dr Judith Hall, co-author of Doctors Talking With Patients/Patients Talking With Doctors.

Read more: Doctor’s orders: These are the 7 foods doctors prescribe for your health

3. Bonus time


Improve on the seven-minute appointment average by seeing a female physician. A 2004 Johns Hopkins study reports that visits with female doctors are, on average, two minutes longer than those with their male counterparts.

“Patients of female physicians also felt more comfortable disclosing medical information, which is crucial for proper care,” says study author Dr Debra Roter, a professor at Johns Hopkins school of public health.

Read more: A sleep doctor reveals the 4 fastest ways to stop snoring

4. Talk time


That’s how long you have to explain your symptoms before your doctor interrupts, says an Annals of Internal Medicine study. The disruption often causes patients to become flustered and forget the other reasons for the visit, says Dr Roter.

Overcome the distraction by writing a comprehensive list of your symptoms before you walk in the door. Include details such as how long you’ve had them and how often and how severe they are, as well as questions you want to ask.

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