Getting the most out of your telephone or video appointment

The average GP appointment is booked for 10 minutes!

Be aware of how consultations usually work

Generally speaking, your consultation will follow this pattern:

  1. You tell your story.
  2. The doctor asks you specific questions based on your story.
  3. (During a face-to-face consultation, this would usually be where the doctor asked to examine you).
  4. Your doctor will discuss what they think might be going on and suggest treatment options or plans.
  5. You ask questions/discuss ‘the plan’.

Get the important issues out first

If there is something you are really worried about – for example, a breast lump or crushing chest pain – please mention it first. Loads of people talk about something relatively minor to start with as a kind of ‘warm-up’.

If your GP doesn’t know that the real problem is coming up, they will spend your 10-minute appointment discussing your minor concerns. If you then casually mention you are worried you might be having a heart attack, then the previous minor problems you brought up somewhat pales into insignificance.

Be bold – mention your real worries up front

Think about your ‘story’ and tell it chronologically

If possible try to tell your story from the beginning; for example: ‘It all began three months ago when I first had a pain in my side.’ You want to try to paint a picture for your GP of your symptoms and the story that goes with it.

This common medical mnemonic may help to guide you.

  • Pain (“Where does it hurt?”)
  • Quality (“What does it feel like?”)
  • Radiation (“Does it move anywhere?”)
  • Scale (“How bad is it? How much does it affect you?”)
  • Timing (“When did it start? How long does it last? Does it come and go? Is it gradual or sudden in onset? What makes it better or worse?”)
  • Other (“Any other symptoms?”)

When giving timings, try to be accurate

When asked when your symptoms started, it’s best to try to be as specific as possible. Saying ‘a long time’, ‘it seems like forever’ or ‘not long at all’ are not very helpful because the meaning varies so much between patients. If possible, try to talk about durations in terms of hours, days, months or years; broad-brush timescales which everyone can understand. Again, it just saves time if your story is as clear as possible from the outset.

Don’t be embarrassed

Your doctor will not be shocked by anything you tell them…honestly!

 

Give the doctor time to digest what you have said to them

Listening to your story over the telephone requires more concentration from your GP as they, and you, both lose the non-verbal cues that we normally rely on to facilitate conversations in life (for, example, we can usually see if someone is not agreeing with what we are saying to them by the expression on their face).

It can also be more difficult for us to remember everything that is said to us or pick out the important points when patients talk at length about their issue(s). Try to only take a break for a few seconds every few sentences to allow us to digest what you have said to us and allow us to confirm we have heard you and ask questions at that point if needed.

 

Many problems? See if you can book a double appointment
If you have a number of issues that you would like to discuss with your GP, see whether it is possible to book a double appointment to give you more time to talk them through.

 

Not clear on treatment plan? Ask again
Make sure you fully understand the next steps before you end the phone call.  If you don’t, then don’t be afraid of asking your GP to go through the plan again.

 

Can I request either a telephone or video appointment?

Yes, it can be your choice if you would prefer a telephone or video consultation. If you choose a video consultation then we recommend that you familiarize yourself with how to start these once you receive your text message or email link (see our patient information leaflet “Starting a video consultation with your GP (using florey.accurx.com”).

 

Can I still come to the surgery?

  • We strongly advise patients do not attend the surgery unless invited to do so and that contact is through telephone, eConsult or our official email channels.
  • We recognize there may be times you need to attend to collect forms, drop off specimens or for queries that cannot be managed over the telephone.
  • Please DO NOT attend if you, or any known contacts, have developed symptoms of covid-19 (temperature, continuous cough or loss of taste or smell) in the past 7 days, or if you have been advised to quarantine through NHS track and trace or gov.uk guidance.

 

References:

  1. https://patient.info/news-and-features/how-to-get-the-most-out-of-your-gp-appointment
  2. https://www.healthwatch.co.uk/advice-and-information/2015-11-25/10-top-tips-get-most-out-your-gp-appointment
  3. https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/sep/05/gp-appointment-doctor-patient-surgery-health
  4. https://powerfulpatients.org/2016/12/27/15-tips-to-get-the-most-from-your-doctors-visit/