Getting the most of your doctor visits
How to prepare before your appointment
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.
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?
Checklists to take on your visit
Consider these checklists to help you prepare for your next doctor's visit.
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?
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.