Getting the Most Out of Your Doctor's Appointment
Before Your Appointment:
- First, be sure that where you make your appointment accepts your insurance. You can call or go online to your insurance website to see a directory of in-network providers. Then, when you call to make your appointment, verify with the front office staff that that office takes your insurance.
- When making the appointment, either by phone or online, provide a few details about your concern so that a proper length of time can be scheduled.
- If it is your first visit to a particular clinic or physician, be ready to provide information about diseases that run in your family and describe current and past health problems and treatments. Write it all down if that helps and bring past medical records, test results, and your immunization records. (See Talking About Your Symptoms for more advice on how to do this.)
- Make a list of the medications you are taking (or bring in the bottles) including the doses and frequency of prescription and over-the-counter drugs, as well as herbs, supplements and vitamins. (See Managing Your Medications for more resources on how to do this.)
- Find a friend or relative to accompany you to your visit. A lot of information may be presented at a doctor’s visit, it may helpful to bring a friend or relative to help you write things down, share medical information, and talk with the health care team.
During Your Appointment:
- Share your symptoms, relevant health history, and the list of medications that you take.
- Don't forget about your emotional health; it influences your physical health.
- Your health is worth the physician’s time. Repeat what the doctor has told you to be sure you understand and ask for clarification if needed. (See Asking Your Doctor Questions for more information on how to do this.)
- Try to reach an agreement about the recommended treatment plan.
Before Leaving Your Appointment:
- Find out if and when you should return for another visit and clarify any next steps. Schedule a follow-up appointment if necessary.
- Ask if you need to watch for certain warning signs for your condition, ask when you should be concerned and at what point you need to call in. (See Chronic Conditions: When Do You Call the Doctor?)
- If you received a new prescription, see Understanding a New Prescription, for more information about what you should be asking and concerned about.
- Ask how to reach the doctor if you have questions or concerns – by email? By phone? What hours are best? How soon can you expect a response?
- Don't leave if you're uncertain about your diagnosis or treatment plan.
(Source: Adapted from the Allina Hospitals and Clinics Website)
For more tips on communicating with your doctor, read Effective Patienthood Begins with Good Communication.
Preparing ahead of time can help you and your doctor make the most out of what are often brief appointments. We’ve reviewed various materials on preparing for an office visit and suggest the following:
- The Rhode Island Health Literacy Project has a 1-page "Checkup Checklist" on what to bring to and from an appointment.
- Dr. Susan Wang's quick video, How to Prepare for Your Doctor's Visit, describes how to get the most out of your doctor visit, including what to bring and how to mentally prepare before you arrive.
- The University of Minnesota provides this article about communicating effectively with your doctor.
Resources reviewed June 2013.
|Who’s Who in Your Doctor’s Office|
Medical offices have a lot of staff but one common goal—helping you, the patient. Here are some of the people you may meet during your doctor’s appointment.
|Getting the Most Out of a Doctor’s Appointment|
Doctor’s appointments are often brief. Here’s how to quickly explain what’s wrong so you can get the help you need.
|Talking About Medical Tests|
Before you agree to medical tests, here are suggestions for some questions to ask, useful websites for understanding medical tests and information about disease screening.
|Asking Your Doctor Questions|
One of the most important things you can do during a doctor’s appointment is to ask questions. Here’s advice on what to ask and how.
|Understanding a New Prescription|
Have a new prescription? Here’s what you need to know about taking any new drug and advice for selecting a pharmacy and paying for medications.
|Talking About Your Symptoms|
Tips on how to research your symptoms online and describe them during your doctor visit.
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