- If this is a specialist, make sure you have obtained the proper referrals from your primary care doctor
- Call the specialist as soon as you have the referral in your hand to see what their process is for new patients. Some specialists need a lot of paperwork, records, and will not see you (even if you have a PPO) without a letter and formal referral from the referring physician.
- If appointments are being scheduled months out for new patients, ask to be put on the cancellation list.
- Do you have a detailed health profile? If not, this would be a great time to make one, be sure to include basic information, risk factors, current issues, past surgeries, any medication you are on, (include herbs and vitamins), family history allergies etc.
- Get copies of your health records and any imaging.
- If you have had an MRI, CT Scan, or xrays done, get copies sent over to the new doctor. This will give him time to read them in advance.
Make a list
Depending on the type of doctor you are seeing your list will vary. Make sure that your list takes into consideration your lifestyle and particular quirks – Do you have a hard time taking pills, or do you get nauseated easily? Ask if there is an alternative way for medication to be delivered. (cream, transdermal patch, etc).
- Before the actual appointment, sit down and make a preliminary list of questions or concerns. This could include the following:
1. What are seeing him/her for?
2. What are the possible treatments?
3. What have you been through already and how has the particular
treatment/medication worked (or not worked)?
4. Are there alternative treatments that would work?
- After you are done with your list, go over it and pick out the three most important questions or concerns that you have. Highlight them and be sure that they are at the top of the list.
Day of the Appointment
- If at all possible take someone with you. Tell them your three most important questions, and ask them to be sure you address those questions with the doctor. Do you want the person with you to speak up during the appointment or just absorb information? Let them know beforehand.
- Bring a notepad and pen. Jot down notes….believe me, you won’t remember everything. You might want to give your companion a pen and paper too.
- Arrive early for new patient paperwork. Some physicians have websites that will allow you to download the paperwork ahead of time, some will mail them to you in advance of the appointment.
- Bring your health profile with you
- Bring your copy of questions, and go over them while waiting.
- Realize that doctors don’t always have a lot of time to spend with you, so aim at least to get your three most important questions answered before leaving.
- If a prescription is written, make sure you understand how you are supposed to take the medicine, for how long, and why. Ask about any side effects that you should look for.
- To minimize problems at the pharmacy have your doctor double check the prescription, and you should check it too.
- If another test, or treatment is prescribed, (physical therapy, xray, lab etc) make sure you fully understand all directions.
- Ask your doctor where to find information on your diagnosis or treatment.
- Make sure that you find out how to contact your doctor after the appointment if you have any questions or concerns. Does he have a preferred method of contact? Email? Phone? How long will it take to get back to you?
- What is the appropriate way to contact him/her if it is an emergency?
After your appointment is over, on the way home, discuss with your friend or family member how it went and what they took from it. A lot of the time, even though both of you were at the same appointment, you will have remembered different things. Make sure that you follow up with any tests, therapies, and prescriptions your doctor has ordered.
These tips will not only make your life easier, but doctors love well organized patients!!! It lets them know that you mean business, and it makes their job easier.
What tips do you have for making your doctor appointments easier?