Claudia Cometa: How to Properly Prepare for a Doctor's Appointment

August 12, 2020

Claudia Cometa

Claudia Cometa

August 12, 2020

It is normal for you to expect your doctor to be well prepared before seeing you. They are the expert after all, so you count on them to have all the correct information about things like your medication, allergies, and diagnosis to be able to accurately address your concerns. 

However, your relationship with your doctor is one-sided. It is likely that they expect something of you, too. Countless hours are put into preparing for a variety of activities, such as meetings, job interviews, or presentations, yet none of that time is allocated to preparing for medical appointments—something that our health and wealth so greatly depend on. 

Many overlook the fact that a large volume of patients visit a doctor in a given day making it difficult for doctors to remember every small detail about each person. How can we just expect our doctor to provide us with a treatment plan when we are unable to describe to them our detailed medical history? How will we know whether or not our medication list is accurate if we are unaware of the medication we take and the time we take it? 

By preparing for a doctor visit, you will have a much more productive and effective visit with your doctor.

How to Have a Productive Appointment with Your Doctor 

It’s time to get the most out of your appointments! Follow these steps to become a better advocate for yourself during your doctor’s appointments and to improve your healthcare and health outcomes. 

Before Your Appointment 

1. Prepare for your appointment

Be ready to talk about your symptoms, medicines or vitamins, and medical history. Have an updated medication list handy with their names, dosages, and how often you take the medication, or bring your medication with you in a bag. Bring any of your X-rays, test results, or medical records along with your insurance cards, names and phone numbers of other doctors that you visit. This will provide your doctor with more in depth information about your health. 

2. Make a list of your concerns

Think about any questions and concerns you want to address during your meeting and rank them from most important to least important. If you have a long list of concerns, inform your doctor at the beginning of the appointment and let them decide which issue to focus on within the given time frame.

3. Bring a friend or family member with you 

By bringing a family member or friend with you, they can remind you of things you may have forgotten to discuss, they can ask questions, they can help you take notes, or they can just be there for moral support. Pick a friend or family member that will not overpower you when you are talking to your doctor and let them know in advance what you want to gain from your visit and how they can help you. 

4. Request an interpreter if you need one

If your doctor does not speak your language, you can call beforehand to ask the doctor’s office to provide an interpreter. If given the chance to, you should consider telling your interpreter what you want to discuss with your doctor before the appointment. Additionally, make sure that your interpreter fully understands your symptoms or condition so that they are able to translate accurate information to the doctor. Finally, do not be afraid to ask your interpreter to repeat something or let them know if you do not understand the diagnosis or instructions provided by the doctor. After all, they are there to help you better understand your situation. 

5. Understand your health insurance  

Knowing the details of the type of plan you have is critical so that you can know if any recommended treatments or services are covered ahead of time.

6. Hire a Healthcare Advisor

It can be difficult to process all the information you are given and understand the right path for you to take. A Healthcare Advisor can act as your personal advocate. They will help you prepare for appointments, they will help you understand what was discussed, and they can educate you on your condition.

During Your Appointment 

7. Be sure you can see and hear as well as possible

If you have a hearing aid or are visually impaired, make sure to bring your hearing aid, eyeglasses, or any other devices that will help you. It is also a good idea to let the doctor and staff know if you have difficulty seeing or hearing and whether or not you need them to speak slower or to look at you when they’re talking. 

8. Take notes or ask for written information

Studies have shown that patients forget 40-80% of the information communicated during a doctor’s appointment and that 50% of the time, the information is remembered incorrectly. By writing down important information or new medication while you are talking to your doctor, you will be able to easily refer back to them. When visiting your doctor, you may also consider recording your appointments but make sure to ask your doctor before you record. 

9. Be honest and don’t leave out any information

Tell your doctor everything, like if you have had any surgeries or even if you are using illegal drugs. These small pieces of information can greatly change your doctor’s decision on which medication to prescribe. Your doctor’s appointment is confidential. 

10. Ask questions

Doing something as simple as asking a question about your diagnosis can go a long way. Asking your doctor why they gave you a certain diagnosis or treatment will allow them to consider alternative options. The same goes for when your doctor prescribes you a new medication. Make sure to ask them what the medication does and why they chose this one over another. The goal is to ask enough questions so that by the end of the appointment, you are fully aware of the state of your health.  

After Your Appointment

11. Keep your doctor updated

If you have a problem following your doctor’s instructions, call your doctor. Make sure to always keep your doctor updated if you notice a change in symptoms or if you have difficulty following the instructions. 

 12. Know the follow-up plan

If you notice symptoms from your medication, how soon should you follow-up? If you are referred to see a specialist, how soon should the appointment be? When should you contact your doctor if you haven’t heard from the specialist’s office? By staying informed of the time frame in which you should have heard back, you can be active in your healthcare journey to prevent mistakes in scheduling.