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Getting the Most of Your Doctor Visits

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Getting the Most of Your Doctor Visits

Whether you're sick or having a routine checkup, you probably have questions for your doctor. Make sure you get the answers by taking time to prepare for your appointment. You may want to have someone come along with you to provide support or even take notes.


Dr. Linda Bradley-Tiernan

UHC.tv:
Bring a List of Questions for Doctor

Even though she is a doctor herself, Dr. Linda Bradley-Tiernan always brings a set of written questions with her to an appointment with her doctor. In this UHC.tv video, She recommends we all do the same.

Selecting a doctor

You're more likely to bring up all your health concerns with a doctor you feel comfortable with. Your primary doctor should be most familiar with your medical history, and so is probably the perfect person to coordinate your care and refer you to specialists as necessary.

What type of primary care doctor is right for you? Consider these options:

  • Family and general practitioners care for a wide range of health concerns. They may be able to treat family members of any age.
  • Internists treat adults and may have additional training in specialties such as cardiology.
  • OB/GYN (obstetrics/gynecology) practitioners specialize in women's health, including pregnancy and childbirth.
  • Pediatricians provide care to children and adolescents.
  • Geriatricians specialize in the care of older adults.

Get tips on choosing a doctor.

Information to provide your doctor

You might be asked to share the following information at your appointment:

  • Medical history – Tell your doctor about current or past health conditions. Also discuss your family medical history.
  • Allergies – Mention any allergies you have.
  • Medications and supplements – Bring a list of all prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins and herbs you're taking.
  • Health insurance – Bring your health plan ID card with you.

Before your visit

Think about and jot down what you'll say and what you want to ask. For example, ask yourself:

  • Am I experiencing any health issues or symptoms that I'm concerned about? How should I describe them to the doctor?
  • How long have I had these symptoms? Have they changed over time?
  • What information do I need?

During your visit

Your list of questions is just a guide. During your visit, more questions may come to mind. Don't be afraid to bring them up. These questions may get you started:

  • Am I due for any routine screenings or immunizations?
  • Have any of the routine screenings found something? If so, what's the diagnosis?
  • Are additional tests needed?
  • What treatment is recommended? What are the benefits and risks?
  • What are the instructions associated with any medications you're prescribed?
  • Can your doctor give you any written materials or online resources where you can learn more about your condition?
  • Should you schedule a follow-up visit?
  • If your condition doesn't improve, how long should you wait before returning to the doctor?

Questions to consider asking about self-care:

  • What home treatment or over-the-counter medications are needed?
  • What results are expected?
  • Are there dietary or activity instructions or restrictions?

You might want to bring a notebook and pen to jot down additional questions and your doctor's recommendations during your appointment.

Checklists to take on your visit

Consider these checklists to help you prepare for your next doctor's visit.

  • Doctor's visit checklist – Even if it's just a routine checkup, review this checklist before any doctor's appointment. Download Doctor Visit Checklist (PDF format)
  • Diagnosis checklist – If your doctor diagnoses you with a problem or condition, get the full facts by ticking off these questions. Download Diagnosis Checklist (PDF format)
  • Prescription checklist – Ask your doctor these questions every time she prescribes a new medication. Download Prescription Checklist (PDF format)
  • Test checklist – If your doctor wants you to have an MRI, a CT scan or some other specialty test, ask these questions. Download Test Checklist (PDF format)
  • Healthy heart checklist – It's important to know what you can do to start living a healthy heart lifestyle. Download Healthy Heart Checklist (PDF format)
  • Cancer care checklist – Bring this card with you the next time you visit your doctor. Download Cancer Care Checklist (PDF format)
  • Surgery checklist – When your doctor says, "You need surgery," that's your cue to find out the details. Download Surgery Checklist (PDF format)
  • Discharge checklist – Review your discharge plan with both your in-hospital doctor and your primary care doctor. Download Discharge Checklist (PDF format)

After your visit

  • Stay in touch with your doctor if you need further assistance. It's okay to ask more questions after your appointment.
  • Follow all treatment instructions.
  • Report any problems with medication.
  • Call your doctor if your condition persists or worsens.
  • Keep your follow-up appointment.
  • Follow recommended preventive care and wellness lifestyle changes.