How many patients do you see per day?
Dr. Dean: The quality of communication often decreases as the quantity of patients (per doctor) increases. If your doctor sees more than 25 complex patients in a day, you’ll probably have a tougher time getting an appointment and receiving the face-to-face time you desire. Complex patients are people with medical conditions or ailments, and their appointments typically require more time.
Is this prescription necessary?
Dr. Dean: Ask if there are lifestyle changes that you can make instead of taking medication (or as much medication). However, it’s vital that you’re honest with yourself. If you know that you’re not willing or able to make those changes, don’t tell your doctor that you will. In fact, according to available research, most people aren’t going to do what’s necessary to reduce or eliminate their medicine. But for those who are motivated, the reward can be big.
Can you prescribe from my list?
Dr. Dean: Often times, physicians are willing to prescribe less expensive alternatives, but (with hundreds of health care plans on the market) they’re unlikely to be familiar with your plan. Prior to attending a doctor’s appointment, print out the list of prescriptions covered by your health insurance provider. For extra savings, you can also print out your drug store’s low-cost options.
Is it easy to contact you?
Dr. Dean: Patients often get frustrated trying to contact their doctors. I recommend not waiting until there is an urgent need. Find out the best way to communicate during emergencies and non-emergencies. Some doctors are better reached by phone or a paging system. Others are best reached via email – especially with the spread of online health records and patient portals. Also, people should find out whether their doctor, another doctor, nurse, or medical assistant will be answering their call or email. Depending on a patient’s particular needs, the answer to this question might be a deal-breaker when choosing a doctor.