Spine Surgeon Tells Patients How to Prepare for an Appointment

Expert tips from Lali Sekhon, MD, PhD, FACS, help you make the most of your time with the specialist.

Written by Margaret Jaworski
Reviewed by Lali Sekhon, MD, PhD, FACS, FAANS

Thirteen to 16 minutes. That’s the amount of time the majority of physicians spend with a patient during an office visit, according to a 2016 Medscape survey. Of the 19,000+ physicians who responded to the survey, roughly 21% of male doctors and 24% of female physicians spend 17-20 minutes with a patient. The survey confirms what most of us know about 21st century doctor-patient interaction. The time allotted to us is less than we want and often less than we need.
While credentials, expertise and experience are critical considerations in choosing a doctor, equally important is finding a physician who inspires confidence, who listens to you, who is thorough and patient and is willing to answer your questions. In short, we all want a doctor who makes us feel comfortable and cared for.

And yet, as Mick Jagger famously crooned in 1989, “You can’t always get what you want.”

Moreover, in modern medicine-land, physician choice may be limited by your insurance plan, your geographic location or other circumstances. Still, it’s important to remember that our health care system makes demands on doctors to optimize their time, so there’s plenty of frustration to go around. Having a conversation with your doctor about neck or back pain may not be the most relaxing experience, but it doesn’t have to be anxiety-provoking says Lali Sekhon, MD, PhD, FACS, a neurosurgeon at Nevada Neurosurgery in Reno.

Dr. Sekhon happens to be one of the 11% of male doctors (according to the survey) who spend 45 minutes or more with their patients. Since most of us aren’t likely to have that much time with a specialist, we asked Dr. Sekhon to share his advice on making the most of your doctor’s visit.

Before Your Appointment About Neck and/or Back Pain

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