Advanced Planning Makes The Most Of Your Doctor’s Visit

Do you, or a family member, have a doctor’s visit coming up in the near future?

If so, make sure you set aside some time ahead of your appointment to actually plan for your visit. You’d be surprised at the number of people who arrive for medical appointments of all types, without giving any thought to what they want to find out from their physician, or what their doctor will want to know more about. is a website from the US Department of Health & Human Services, and offers these tips on how to make the most of your doctor visit.

Be prepared to talk about any new medicines you’ve been taking — including over the counter products. If you’ve been sick lately or have had a surgical procedure, be sure to mention that as well. Is there something different about the way you’ve been feeling? Whether its the purpose of the appointment or not, make sure your doctor is aware of it. Practice describing the symptoms or sensations you’re experiencing. Jot down notes you can refer to during your appointment. This will increase the likelihood that you won’t leave anything out when you’re talking with your doctor.

Sometimes life changes can affect the way we feel. Particularly if there is a stressful or unusual circumstance in your life, such as a change in employment status, an upcoming family wedding, or a recent death or serious illness in the family, these are all things to make your doctor aware of. It’s also a good idea to be generally aware of your family’s health history. Sometimes a condition is a common family occurrence. Knowing that background can be valuable information for your health care provider.

If your appointment involves getting test results or a diagnosis of some sort, plan ahead. It may be difficult to anticipate what the follow up steps will be, but try to think about the information you’ll need to gain from your conversation. For more serious or complicated doctors’ visits, consider bringing along a family member or friend, so that more than one person is hearing the message. Think about bringing along a note pad, or even a tape recorder, so that you’re sure to get all the information that’s being shared. Especially in stressful circumstances, it can be hard to recall every part of a conversation, even if you are concentrating carefully.

Most importantly, don’t leave your appointment without fully understanding what you’ve been told, and what the next steps in your care will be. Doctors, nurses (and pharmacists) don’t mind answering your questions or repeating themselves. It’s more important that you leave the appointment with the information and instructions you need. If you’d like even more tips to plan for upcoming doctor’s appointments, use this “Question Builder” document from the Health & Human Services AHRQ website.