Older woman sweats thinking about checklist while looking at doctor, whose face is an egg timer counting down from 15 minutes

Making the Most of Your 15 Minute Appointments

Last updated: December 2022

When I first got migraine, I had a lot of questions.

I wanted a clear diagnosis. I wanted a clear plan. I wanted a future clear of migraine. I didn’t know how to get there, but I was certain that my doctor knew the way.

What are my doctor's appointments like?

The days leading up to a doctor’s appointment were filled with such hope. I was finally going to get answers and recommendations to get me one step closer to relief. Yet without fail, anytime I walked into my doctor’s appointments, I felt scattered, overwhelmed, and even intimidated.

Before I knew it, the appointment was over, and I was being guided to the checkout desk.

How did the appointment go so fast? Did I even get one of my questions answered? Was the information that I received helpful and clear? I realized pretty quickly that I needed to walk into my doctor’s appointments with a plan.

How could I make the most of short appointments?

My doctor was one of the best in the area and was there to help me; however, as we know, most doctors are limited to 15 minutes per patient appointment. How could I make the most of my 15 minutes with my doctor so that I was walking away with new information and a clear plan?

How do I prepare questions in advance?

My mind thinks best when it’s relaxed. In other words, I’m far more likely to think of questions or topics to discuss with my doctor when I’m on a walk, driving, or even in the shower – not when I’m sitting in the exam room, mindful of the ticking clock. So, I use the notes app on my phone to capture questions or topics to discuss.

As they pop up, I add them to the note, and then the day prior to my appointment, I review them to prioritize them. I identify my number one priority going into the appointment.

What is my most burning question or need? If I get to ask just one question, what should it be?

How do I start the appointment?

With my top priority in mind – and listed in my notes just in case I draw a blank when I see the white coat – I address it at the beginning of my appointment.

Typically, the doctor will start off with an open-ended question like – how have you been feeling since our last visit? So, I would respond with something along the lines of “The number of migraines has improved, but the ones that I get are still pretty debilitating. I want to discuss some alternative rescue medicines” or “I still feel like I’m being triggered from muscular tension. I want to discuss some options to relieve that tension, such as Botox, physical therapy, or any other suggestions you may have.”

The update and the desired topic will be different for each of us, but my approach is typically the same in sharing a concise update followed by a topic that I want to discuss. The doctor may choose to ask additional questions before we dive into my topic, but I’ve put it on his radar at the very beginning, so we’re more likely to have the appropriate time to discuss it.

What do I do if I forget my question?

There will certainly be times when despite your best planning, you still forget an important question or topic. This is a great opportunity to leverage the patient portal if one is available. You can submit your question, so you don’t have to wait several months before your next opportunity to see the doctor.

What do you find helpful in making the most of your doctor’s appointments?

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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