A typical primary care visit lasts about 15 minutes. Well, the visit may take longer, but the time you spend with the doctor is only about 15 minutes. Make each of them count by preparing for your appointment with these tips for getting the most out of every doctor’s visit.
BEFORE YOU GO:
Understand your insurance
Most insurance companies list network physicians online, but the best way to know whether your doctor is in your insurance network is to call the doctor’s office. Don’t forget to have you insurance card handy before you call! Also, make sure you understand what to expect from your visit in financial terms: is there a co-pay; who will file claims; does anything expected at the visit require pre-approval?
If you’ve just come down with the flu, then you don’t have this luxury, but for more routine appointments, ask for a preferred appointment time instead of taking the first opening offered. Usually, your best bets are the first appointments in the morning or right after lunch – you’re less likely to have a long wait time then. Also try to avoid Mondays, Fridays, and the first few days after a holiday. Those days tend to be the busiest.
Fill out forms
Not every office makes paperwork available prior to appointments. If they do, though, fill out the paperwork completely before getting to the waiting room. If you don’t get the forms in advance, gather up information on your family history, contact information for other doctors you see, hospitalizations, and any diagnoses; those are likely to be on the paperwork you’ll fill out when you arrive at the office.
Now that your appointment is on the books, compile the information you’ll need at the doctor’s office. Being prepared for the appointment can help ensure your visit goes smoothly.
TAKE WITH YOU:
A list of your current medicines and supplements is helpful, but bringing the bottles with you is even better. Those labels contain much more detail than you may remember, especially if you take multiple medications. Do you need refills of anything? Make note so you can ask for those while you’re in the office, and see if a 90-day prescription could be a money-saving option for you.
A list of questions & concerns
It’s easy to forget something once you’re in the office, so bring a list of questions with you to organize your thoughts and make sure you get what you need from the visit. If you’ve had any specific health concerns, a list of those symptoms, when they began, and anything that makes them better or worse is helpful for your doctor.
Information from other doctors
If you’re under the care of multiple physicians, take their contact information and any notes from your visits with them. It’s also your right to ask for copies of your medical records if you’d like to share those with each doctor you see.
Someone you trust
Taking someone you trust to your appointments can calm your nerves. If you’re sick or injured, you’re not at your best. Having a second person in the room helps ensure you fully understand any test results, prescription instructions, or other medical advice.
You got to the doctor’s office with all the right materials, but a few extra steps will help you get the most value out of every minute you spend with the physician.
BEFORE YOU LEAVE:
Let’s face it. Some conditions are downright embarrassing. Or you may not want to admit to recreational drug use or the number of cocktails you drink with dinner. But being dishonest or avoiding awkward conversations won’t get you the right medical advice. Tell the truth, and don’t by shy about bringing up embarrassing issues. Your doctor has heard it all anyway, so wouldn’t it be better to clear up the issue and start feeling better?
Ask for clarification
Your time with the doctor is wasted if you don’t understand what you’re being told. Ask for clarification, request written notes, and repeat after the doctor to be sure you fully understand the outcome of your visit and what’s supposed to happen next.
At least, don’t leave before you know exactly what’s supposed to take place between the end of this visit and your next appointment. Especially if you’re seeing multiple doctors or are treating more than one condition, understanding when to take a drug, how long to continue physical therapy exercises, or even how many months or weeks to wait for a follow-up appointment can get confusing.
Ask how to follow up
Have you ever left the doctor’s office and then called your spouse or a friend, only to realize that you don’t really understand the details well enough to explain them? While you’re still in the doctor’s office, ask what you can do if you have questions or need help in between appointments.
Remember, coming prepared to each appointment allows more time for conversation and getting to the heart of your health concerns.
Need help finding a physician? Our online directory can help you locate a doctor by name or specialty.