How to Prepare for a Doctor's Appointment



October 07, 2020

Whether you are meeting a doctor for an annual checkup or due to changes in your health, always show up to your appointments prepared. Here are a few steps to follow before, during, and after your appointment to ensure you have a productive appointment: 

Before Your Appointment

  1. Prepare for your appointment

  2. Make a list of your concerns

  3. Bring a friend or family member with you

  4. Request an interpreter if you need one

  5. Understand your insurance

  6. Hire a Healthcare Advisor for guidance and support

During Your Appointment

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

  2. Take notes or ask for written information

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

  4. Ask questions

  5. Keep your doctor updated 

  6. Know the follow-up plan

First Appointment with a New Doctor

It is important to cover some basics when visiting a new doctor for the first time. The first meeting is where you will acquaint yourself with the doctor and their team. 

Your appointment with a new doctor will be similar to every other appointment; however, there are some key things to discuss and note down during this first appointment, such as: 

  • A phone number to contact during emergency

  • Your medical history

  • Your former doctor's name and other health care team members (eg. specialists)

Be sure to also bring your insurance cards, a list of prescriptions and medications, and notes about your family history and your own health history with you to the first appointment.

Questions to Ask Your Doctor

Preparing questions for your doctor's appointment is essential for a productive session, but what questions should you be asking? 

Before your appointment, have a list of questions or concerns to bring with you. When creating this list, some questions to ask yourself are: 

  • Are you concerned about the effects of your treatment on your daily life? 

  • Do you need any new medication? 

  • Are there different treatment options that you want to explore? 

  • Is there a surgery or medical test that you need? 

  • Have you noticed any changes in your appetite, weight, sleep, or energy levels? 

  • Have there been any recent changes in your medications or the effects they have had on you?

Along with your prepared questions, there are also other questions you should be asking during your doctor’s appointment. Questions to ask during a general check-up are: 

  • Do my vital signs look okay? 

  • Am I at a healthy weight? 

  • Should I start taking any supplements?

  • Am I due for any vaccines?

  • Should I be screened for anything based on my family history?

  • What should I know about this medication? 

  • Should I get a second opinion?

  • Can I get help paying for this?

Not all of these general questions will be applicable to you, but it is good to keep them in mind in case you do notice something different in your health. Additionally, if you are receiving treatment or need prescription medication, these are some questions to consider:

  • What is my diagnosis?

  • What treatment options do I have? What are the benefits of each option? What is the cost of each option? What are the side effects? 

  • Will I need a test? What is the test for? What happens during the test? What will the results tell me? 

  • What does this new medication do? How and when do I take it? Are there any side effects? 

  • Why do I need surgery? Are there any non-surgical ways to treat my condition? How often do you perform the surgery? How is the healing process? 

Having questions prepared and asking questions during your appointment is crucial. If you notice that something is off after your appointment - for example, if a medication is not helping - know when to call your doctor and how to contact them.

Some reasons you may call your doctor after an appointment are:

  • If your symptoms do not subside or get worse

  • If you experience side effects or problems with your current or new medicines

  • To ask for your test results and an explanation of the results

  • If you receive new prescriptions or begin taking over-the-counter medicines

Recording Your Doctors Appointments

Remembering all the information from your doctor’s appointments can be difficult and writing notes during your meeting can be hard and possibly impact your listening. 

By recording your appointments, you are able to listen back on your appointments for information. In some states, you are actually allowed to record your appointment without asking your doctor, but in others you are not. If you live in one of these states, you must be aware that recording an encounter without permission is illegal.

How to Prepare for Virtual Doctor Appointments 

Being well prepared for a virtual doctor appointment might be new to you. Most tips mentioned above apply for in-person appointments, but having an online doctor appointment can add a few more things to keep in mind. Here are some steps to help you get ready for a virtual appointment:

Before Your Virtual Appointment

  1. Check your insurance

  2. Make sure your doctor has all the information they need

  3. Assess your technological capability

  4. Gather the medical equipment you have available to you

  5. Find a quiet spot to get set up

  6. Prepare like you would for any other appointment

  7. Ask a friend or family member to join you

During Your Virtual Appointment

  1. Explain your symptoms

  2. Take notes

After Your Virtual Appointment

  1. Prepare for a follow-up appointment

How a Healthcare Advisor Helps to Prepare for Appointments

Making medical decisions on your own can be tough, especially if the information presented by your doctor is hard to understand.

Medical advocates, or Healthcare Advisors, can be there to help guide you through the process. They can attend your doctor appointments to ask questions and help you gain a better understanding of your condition. They can sit down with you to explore treatments and generate options based on your financial situation.

Additionally, if you are going to see a new doctor for the first time, a Caribou Healthcare Advisor can help you make sense of your medical records or fill out medical forms. They can be there to guide you every step of the way so that you are informed and confident in your healthcare.