Make the Most of Your Doctor Visit

There are a few things that you can do to help make the most of your visit:

  • Make a list of the issues you would like to discuss during your office visit. Include any details that might be relevant.
  • When scheduling your appointment, ask the receptionist how long the visit will be so you know how much time you can expect to have with the doctor.
  • Begin your appointment by summarizing the issues you would like to address during the visit. This gives the physician the opportunity to understand all of your concerns at the beginning of the appointment and address them accordingly.
  • Bring your medications to every office visit. Include all supplements, over-the counter (OTC) medications and medications prescribed by all physicians.
  • Do not be bashful about presenting information or research to your physician. Often, the internet or other resources are helpful. Feel free to provide copies and keep the originals. If your physician does not feel the information is relevant, he/she will explain.
  • If the physician uses terms you do not understand, simply ask, “What does that mean in layman’s terms?” Since they speak it every day, physicians can overlook the fact that medical terminology is not a common part of the average vocabulary. Any explanation should make sense to you.
  • When given a diagnosis, ask about other possible diagnoses. Many symptoms are present in multiple illnesses. You have a right to understand all possible diagnoses, plus the prognosis, treatment plan and risks and benefits of any treatment.
  • If special tests are ordered, ask the doctor when you can expect results. Then hold that doctor to that time frame. You should be notified by the ordering doctor or staff of the results of all tests that are ordered. Some tests results take longer than others to return but never assume that if you were not notified of the results, that the test results were normal.
  • If a diagnosis is uncertain or if you are uncomfortable with a diagnosis, do not feel that you are insulting the doctor by asking for a second opinion. Most doctors welcome a second opinion or explain to you why it would not be helpful. However, note that payment for a second opinion may have to be pre-approved by your insurance provider.
  • When you are given a prescription, remind the physician of your allergies and all current medications (prescription and over-the-counter) you are taking. Drug interactions and side effects can be often be avoided by asking simple questions.
  • If you have a disability or are concerned you may not understand an explanation, take a friend or advocate with you to help. Take notes or record the conversation.
  • Ask about your provider’s title (doctor, physician assistant, nurse practitioner, medical student) and if he/she is board certified.
  • For Your Children: Bring immunization records for each child's first visit.

How to Make the Most of Your Hospital Stay:

  • The presence of a family member or friend can be very beneficial. Ask if one or more can stay in the room with you. Have him/her keep notes of questions and concerns.
  • Bring your medications to the emergency room or to the hospital when you are admitted.
  • Ask about the medications you are to receive. Ask about each pill and it's intened purpose. Don’t forget about IV medications as well. If you are uncertain about a medication, wait until you can talk to your physician.
  • Ask the doctor, “What is the plan for today?” You have the right to know what procedures, therapies and/or tests will be done.
  • If you are having a test performed, confirm with transporter and the technician that the test is ordered for you.
  • Plan your hospital discharge early. It is perfectly appropriate to begin thinking about what you will need to assist you after you leave the hospital. Ask questions as soon as you are admitted. Every hospital has professionals called Case Managers that arrange for home health care, medical equipment or other items that may help your recovery.
  • If you have a living will, make sure a copy is provided to the hospital staff.
  • When large families wish to be kept informed, designate one person to communicate with the doctor and allow that individual to communicate a daily report to the family. Most doctors would be glad to schedule family meetings during a time that he/she routinely rounds on patients.