How to Get the Most From Your Health Provider Visit

9 Tips to Maximize a Visit

Syringe and Prescription Bottle

Health professionals strive to provide quality patient care while balancing a time-strapped schedule.

With patient appointments in the U.S. averaging only 20 minutes, this translates to limited time for your medical consultation. So it pays to prepare for your health visit.

Preparing will help maximize those precious minutes with your healthcare provider.

Before Your Healthcare Visit:

  • Complete appointment pre-work: Complete any testing that your health provider ordered for you. This includes lab work, x-rays or similar. Be sure to schedule these test well in advance of your physician visit.
  • Prepare questions for your visit: Write down the questions you want to ask your healthcare provider in a notebook. Its frustrating to forget a concern that bothers you.
  • Make Lists: In the same notebook, make a list of your allergies, medical conditions, prior surgeries and your family history. Also jot down any medication names with dosages, supplements and over-the-counter drugs you are taking. Write clearly because the medical office may want to make a copy of these pages.
  • Remember your Notebook: Put the notebook containing the information for #2, and #3 above in a place you will remember to grab it on your appointment day. If you have any forms that need to be completed for school or an employer, be sure to take them too.

During Your Healthcare Visit:

  • Bring Extra Ears: Have a family member or friend attend the medical appointment with you. Give them permission to ask questions, too.
  • Be Honest: Tell the doctor about any symptoms. Tell them if you have experimented with a home remedy or an illegal drug. Do not withhold any information from your healthcare provider. If you haven’t taken previously prescribed medications, haven’t followed a previously ordered exercise or therapy plan – be honest.
  • Take Notes: Write down the name of a new diagnosis, new medicines, treatments, or tests. Also note any new instructions your provider gives you. Understand why a new prescription or treatment is being prescribed, and how it will benefit you. Side effects are important to ask about as well. This is why having someone attend with you can be helpful. They can write while you listen, or vice versa.
  • Understand the Next Steps: Before leaving, restate your understanding of any medications or dosage amounts, medical tests to schedule, and any diagnoses the health professional has discussed with you. Obtain any paper scripts for requested medical tests.
  • Schedule Future Appointments: Make sure to schedule any appointments before you leave the building. This includes follow-up visits or tests that your healthcare provider has ordered for you. Sometimes your provider’s staff will help you schedule your tests.

It’s important to actively participate in your treatment decisions. This means keeping informed and well-educated about your conditions and treatments.

If you are not comfortable with the outcome of your visit, get a second opinion or find a different health professional.

You know your body, pain and symptoms better than anyone else. Be assertive and advocate for yourself.