Photo Citation: Kamo, A. (2014, May 21). Taking Lead in Doctor-Patient Dance. Retrieved March 4, 2015, from https://flic.kr/p/eKWBX1
Typically I don’t share my health coaching stories, but I felt that this was one all of my readers could benefit from. One common problem that I read about in social media support forums or through interactions with my clients is that they can’t stand their doctor. The following is the story of one of my clients who suffered from extreme appointment anxiety and what we did to solve it.
One of my health coaching clients emailed and said they needed to schedule a call with me right away. The message said that they had a doctor’s appointment tomorrow and that they needed to talk to me before they went to it. I wrote back that I was teaching a class, but that I would have some time that evening to talk. When class was over for the day, I gave them a call.
“Hey Matt thanks for calling. I really need to talk to you,” said my concerned client in a shaky voice. “I am having severe appointment anxiety.”
“OK, tell me a little about what you are experiencing.”
“I can’t believe it started already. I am shaking and panicking and the appointment isn’t until tomorrow. This doctor never listens to me. The lines are always so long there. I just get so mad that by the time I see the doctor, I completely shut down. I can’t keep seeing this doctor. I need to find someone new and start over.”
As my client talked, I started to pick up on some ways that we could improve the patient experience. This person was feeling that they had no control over the appointment and that lack of control was leading to frustration with the doctor. That frustration with the doctor caused a communication breakdown with my client, so they were never able to establish a bond. As I thought about it, I knew what my client needed to do. They needed to take control of their appointment, by organizing not only themselves, but the doctor as, well.
“Here is what you do,” I said. “Take out a blank piece of paper. On the top of the paper write your chief complaint which is the reason you are there for the appointment. Underneath the chief complaint, write out the topics of concern in a short bullet-point format. These can be the all of the items you want to talk to the doctor about. Finally, leave yourself some space to write a follow up action plan down the bottom.”
Over the next couple of minutes we talked about what to write down on the form. We talked through some of the concerns that they wanted addressed and put it in a short, succinct fashion that would be easy for the doctor to quickly review.
“Next,” I said, “when you go to check in to your appointment give this to the person checking you in and tell them to make sure the doctor gets it. That person will then attach that paper to your file and the doctor will read it prior to seeing you. After that, give me a call and let’s talk about how it went.
My client called me back the next day after the appointment and was amazed.
“Matt, I can’t believe it! My appointment anxiety is gone! Not only that, but something as simple as this form completely changed how we talked to each other. When the doctor walked in the room, he said that he wanted to talk about the topics I listed and showed me the form we wrote together. Throughout the appointment, we worked on a follow-up plan together and I finally feel like the doctor listened to me.”
Maybe this sounds like your relationship with your doctor. If so, the secret to having better doctor appointments is to take control of the conversation. One strategy that I have found works in my personal life and the lives of my health coaching clients is to submit a form at check in.
If you suffer from appointment anxiety, you can click on this link or picture to download my Appointment Action Plan for free:
- The 5 questions you should ask at every appointment
- The Appointment Action Plan Form
- A sample form and instructions for use
My Appointment Action Plan is a free gift to you for being loyal readers. Together, we can end appointment anxiety!