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The question: I recently went to a walk-in clinic and was told I could only discuss two things at most. Is this common practice?

The answer: With all the work commitments, family responsibilities and hectic schedules, it's understandable why people sometimes bring in a long list of concerns to their doctor with the hope of addressing everything at once.

However, with a visit to the doctor lasting anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes (which can be shorter in a walk-in setting), there often isn't enough time to fully discuss more than a couple of issues.

First and most importantly, doctors want to address what you bring forward in a thorough manner. In order to properly ask all the questions related to an issue, do the appropriate physical exam and organize investigations or consultations, each concern can take some time.

A doctor can see on average between 20 to 40 patients in a day. In order to see everyone in a timely manner, we set strict time limits. In an ideal world there would be no limits, but with the shortage of available health care providers in many communities that is the reality.

While two issues per visit can be frustrating, there are some ways you can work around this with your doctor.

First consider asking for more time, some offices may allow for a longer visit. If this isn't possible, try booking a separate appointment to address what's left. While this may not seem ideal, it will decrease the stress around the visit and it will ensure that your needs are met and each concern will be reviewed in detail.

Some offices will offer alternative ways of corresponding such as e-mail or phone. See if these services are available as you can deal with requisitions, prescription renewals and review of results in this manner. This will allow you to reserve the time for more complex issues when you meet face-to-face with your doctor.

Finally, be clear on what you are hoping to get out of the encounter. If you wait until the end of the visit to bring up a new issue, it will decrease the chance there will be time to address it. By reviewing your concerns early on, you'll increase the likelihood of having a productive and satisfying meeting.

Dr. Sheila Wijayasinghe is the medical director at the Immigrant Womens' Health Centre, works as a staff physician at St. Michael's Hospital in their Family Practice Unit and at Hassle Free Clinic, and established and runs an on-site clinic at Women's Habitat Shelter in Etobicoke.

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