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6 steps to building a better doctor's visit

How long do you spend with your doctor these days? 10 minutes? 15? Even though your time is crunched, there are things you can do to forge a more collaborative relationship, have more productive conversations and make every second count.

1. Plan a day or two ahead. Send your numbers in advance by e-mail or the route your doctor prefers. Call out anything you notice that's out of the ordinary. Then bring a copy of everything you send with you, just in case. Your doctor may only take a glance before you meet, but you'll get the wheels turning for a more fruitful appointment.

2. Collect your questions. Something about a paper-thin gown can make anyone forget what they wanted to discuss. Whether it's in a notepad or on your phone, having a list to refer to—and take notes on—can help you cover everything you want to discuss and remember what to do next.

3. Give it to 'em straight. Don't sugar-coat (pun completely intended) your results or how things are going. Your doctor is there to help you navigate challenges and solve problems, not pat you on the back. Besides, no matter what problem you bring up or how embarrassing it might be to you, you're probably not the first person who's had to deal with it. Your doctor may have suggestions that have worked for others.

4. Participate in the decisions. Your doctor knows a lot, but nobody knows everything—and you're the expert on what works for you. The best patient-physician relationships are respectful and collaborative. You both should bring ideas to the table.

5. Don't commit to things you know you won’t do. It's okay to say, "That goal is a little out of my range. Maybe we can dial it back a bit and work up to that." Your doctor would rather have you leave with directions you'll actually follow than with lofty goals that will be forgotten by next week.

6. Do what you say you'll do. Think about it—if your doctor said they'd do something after the appointment, you'd expect them to follow through. They should be able to expect the same from you. If there's something stopping you, think about how to solve it and move forward. Testing pain getting in the way of checking your blood sugar? Get a less-painful lancing device. No time to exercise? Take the stairs at work. Start with the goal and brainstorm ideas to help you get there.

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