Making the most of your medical appointment

In today’s fast-paced health care environment, most appointments with medical providers are brief. It is important to prepare for your health care visit before you get to your provider’s office. Follow these tips to make sure your time is well spent.

In today’s fast-paced health care environment, most appointments with medical providers are brief. It is important to prepare for your health care visit before you get to your provider’s office. Follow these tips to make sure your time is well spent.

Before the appointment

  • Determine the most important reason for your visit. Do you have new symptoms? Are you managing an ongoing issue? Are you seeking a second opinion?
  • Make a list of all your medications, both prescription and over-the-counter (don’t forget vitamins and dietary supplements). Keep the list updated.
  • Write down your questions. List the most important ones first in case you don’t get to ask all of them. For more information about preparing for medical appointments, visit the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality website at AHRQ.gov  and click on the For Patients & Consumers tab.

During the appointment

  • Be early. Arrive about 15 minutes before your appointment to check in and complete paperwork.
  • Bring your insurance card, photo identification, co-payment, medication list and questions.
  • Take a family member, friend or faith community nurse to help you hear and understand information your provider gives you. Take notes to be sure you remember details.
  • Be honest. Relay important details about your medical history. Some topics may be sensitive to discuss, but your provider needs to know all the facts to provide you with the best care. Truthfully report personal habits, such as smoking, drug or alcohol use and sexual history, as well as how well you follow instructions for taking your medications and your family’s medical history.
  • Ask questions. Get all information you need to understand your diagnosis, treatment options and recommendations from your health care provider. Make sure you understand all the directions and when you need to return for follow-up.

After the appointment

  • Review your notes and instructions.
  • Follow orders for medications, tests and follow-up appointments.
  • Contact your provider’s office if you have questions or concerns.

You and your medical provider make an important team in caring for your health. Your preparation for appointments is essential to make the time productive and beneficial.


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