Health Advisory

3 Things to Do Before Your Next Doctor’s Appointment

Primary care visits are often very short. Prepare in advance to make the most of every minute with your doctor.

Primary care doctors are very busy and don’t have much time to spend with each patient. In fact, a study of more than two million primary care visits found that the average visit is just 18 minutes long.

Planning ahead will help you make the most of your time with your primary care doctor. The more prepared you are, the more likely it is that your doctor will be able to address your concerns effectively, even during a short visit.

3 Ways to Prepare for Your Doctor’s Visit

1. Keep a health journal. If your doctor asks questions about your health or your family’s medical history, you may not remember the details. It helps to have them written down. Start taking ongoing notes on your health, either in a paper notebook or the notes app on your phone, and bring them to your appointment.

What to include:

  • Facts about your medical history and your family’s medical history. This is especially helpful when visiting a new doctor for the first time. Be sure to mention any allergies.

  • A list of the medications, vitamins, and supplements you’re taking. For each one, note when you started taking it, your current dose, and how often you take it. If the dose changes or you stop taking a particular medication, add that to your notes.

  • Your current symptoms. If you’re experiencing new or ongoing health issues, your doctor will want to know when the symptoms started and how they have changed over time.

  • A list of questions. Write down the questions you want to ask your doctor, along with anything else you want to be sure to mention so that you won’t forget them in the moment.

  • Your health stats. Do you check your blood pressure or weight at home on a regular basis? If so, your doctor may find that information helpful.

  • General information about your health habits.  If you exercise regularly, how is it going? Have you been eating well? Sleeping well? How’s your stress level? Tracking these things in your journal.

Tip: To remember everything the doctor says to you, take notes in your health journal during or immediately after your appointment.

2. Gather your documents. Be sure you have your insurance cards, identification, and any other documentation the doctor may need (such as recent test results or scans) ready to go. If you’re expecting another provider to transfer medical information to your PCP before your visit, reach out to confirm that it has been sent.

3. Ask a friend or family member to accompany you to your appointment.  This may not feel necessary at a simple checkup, but if you are anxious about your doctor’s visit, it’s helpful to have support.  Having a friend or family member there may make you more comfortable — and they can also help you take notes and remember details.

For a Customized Plan, Work with a Health Advisor

You can take the steps above on your own, but if your health situation is complex, consider connecting with a health advisor. An expert health advisor will provide personal guidance before, during, and after each doctor’s appointment — and they will often achieve better results than you would on your own. 

Before your appointment, a health advisor will:

  • Vet your medical team to make sure you’re getting top-quality care.

  • Communicate with your providers before your visit to be sure they have up-to-date information about your health, including any ongoing or co-occurring conditions, and are prepared to address your concerns.

  • Confirm that your doctor’s office has the details they need to bill your health insurance so there are no unnecessary hassles after your visit.

  • Make sure that your doctors have your complete medical records, including any recent test results and scans.

  • Offer to accompany you to the appointment. 

The health advisor will also check in with you afterward to go over everything the doctor told you, whether it’s about a new diagnosis or specific follow-up instructions. The health advisor will answer your questions in plain language, without any medical jargon.

A health advisor expedites the process of getting great health care, whether you need assistance selecting the best insurance plan, finding a concierge doctor, arranging for mental health treatment or substance abuse recovery, or other aspects of the healthcare system. 

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