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Tips to Make Your Doctor Visits a Success

Ever left the doctor’s office confused? What did he mean when he said that? Get tips to make your doctor visits a success.

male patient talking to his doctor

People who are involved with their own health care decisions are happier with their care and tend to get better results. Preparing for your doctor appointment, asking questions and talking with your doctor are ways to get the most out of your doctor visit.

Before you arrive at your doctor appointment, read this list of tips to learn how to maximize the time spent with your doctor or other care team members.

  • Be prepared to ask questions you may have about your diagnosis or treatment. Write them down before your appointment and make sure to take good notes.
  • During your appointment, let the doctor know all of your symptoms, no matter how insignificant or unrelated you may think they are. Also, let your doctor know about other doctors you are seeing; diagnoses, treatments and results.

  • Mention all medications you’re taking and any side effects you may have. This includes all medications prescribed by other doctors, over-the-counter pills, vitamins, herbals and supplements. Be sure to include over-the-counter medications such as nose drops, ear drops, skin creams and ointments. Also be sure to tell the doctor about any medications you are supposed to take, but don’t.

    It’s important to let your doctor know about any problems you have had with medications in the past, like allergies, side effects or intolerances. Make a list and take it to all doctor visits, or better yet, collect all current medicines and supplements in a bag and bring them with you to your appointment.
  • Tell the doctor if a family member has recently been diagnosed with a new disease or condition. Family history is important information for a doctor. Many people give this information during their first visit, but fail to update it.
  • Let your doctor know about your concerns. Make a list of medical worries you may have. For example, tell your doctor if you smoke, drink alcohol, are depressed, feel stressed, have incontinence problems or sexual difficulties. These may be hard subjects to talk about, but they are important to your health. Your doctor can help.
  • Bring along a family member or friend. If you think you may have a hard time remembering or understanding what the doctor says, have someone go with you to the visit. Ask about written brochures, instructions or patient education materials on your condition.

  • What are the next steps in my care? Should I schedule another appointment? Should I call or will someone call me with my lab results? Don't leave the doctor's office until you are clear about what happens next.

  • Know what to do if you have a problem before the next visit. Is there an emergency number you should call?
  • Follow up with your doctor. Call the office if:
    • You have questions
    • Your symptoms do not get better, or if they change or get worse
    • You have not received the results of a test

By Jenilee Matz, Contributing Writer

Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Questions are the answer: Before your appointment. Accessed: December 7, 2015.
Family Tips for talking to your doctor. Accessed: December 7, 2015.
National Institute of Health. National Institute on Aging. Talking with your doctor: A guide for older people. Accessed: December 7, 2015.

Last Updated: December 7, 2015