Getting the most out of your appointment

Published in Family Medicine Author: George Morris, MD

Have you ever left a doctor appointment disappointed that you forgot to ask an important question or feeling confused about the diagnosis or medicine prescribed? With a little preparation you can get the most out of your appointment.

Questions to Ask Your Doctor

Prepare for your office visit by defining your goals, organizing your symptoms and making a list of questions.

Diagnosis

  • What is wrong?
  • What causes it?
  • How serious is it?
  • Am I contagious?
  • How will it affect me in the future?

Doctor's Orders

  • What activities do I need to avoid?
  • Do I need a follow-up visit?
  • When should I call if I’m not better?
  • Should I watch for anything special?

Medicine

  • Can you give me information about the medicine?
  • What is the medicine for?
  • How should I take it and for how long?
  • What side effects are likely? What do I do if they occur?
  • Is this medication safe to take with other medicine or dietary supplements?
  • What food, drink or activities should I avoid while taking this medicine?

Tests

  • Why do I need this test?
  • What can I expect during the test?
  • How reliable is the test?
  • What if I don’t have the test?
  • How much will the test cost? Will insurance cover it?
  • How and when will I get the results?

Appointment Tips

Before Your Appointment

  • Write down any questions.
  • Arrive early for your appointment.
  • Bring a list of your signs and symptoms.
  • Bring your health history.
  • Always bring a list of current medications, including dosages and allergies.
  • Tell your doctor about any herbal or other alternative medicines or treatments used.

During Your Appointment

  • Ask questions, especially if you don't understand what your doctor has told you.
  • If you feel the need, bring someone who can help you ask questions and help you understand and remember answers later.
  • Ask your doctor to draw pictures to help explain something.
  • Take notes.
  • Tell your doctor if you feel you need more time to make a decision on your care.

After Your Appointment

  • Call if you have questions or log in to MyChart to send a secure message to your provider.
  • Call if your symptoms get worse or if you have problems with medication.
  • If you had tests and haven't heard within a week, call for your results.
  • Make any appointments suggested by your doctor, for example lab, X-ray or referral to a specialist.