Time is of the essence during your doctor’s visit, but it’s important for both of you to get what you need from the appointment. Here is a doctor’s appointment checklist with several tips to ensure you’re prepared to make the most of your time during a doctor’s office visit.
Do you ever leave the doctor’s office frustrated because you forgot to ask all your questions? Do you find it hard to have awkward conversations with your doctor, even though you know they’re important discussions to have? Do you sometimes forget your doctor’s instructions or forget to bring important materials with you to your appointments?
Then this doctor’s appointment checklist is for you.
Each doctor's visit you have is important, whether it's for a check-up, a treatment, or to go over test results. The time you get to spend with your healthcare professional and make sure your health is on the right track is valuable, so make the most of it making sure to prepare for a doctor’s office visit.
But how do you do that?
Don’t Be Late for Your Doctor's Appointment
Arrive on time. Know what time you have to be at the doctor’s appointment and how long it will take you to get there. Consider buffering in some extra time for traffic or weather. If you use a ride service to get to your appointments, set your pickup time earlier than you need it to avoid delays that are out of your control.
Pack Up to Prepare for Your Doctor's Visit
Make sure you have everything you need with you. From the basic necessities for the waiting room, like something to read and a light jacket in case the clinic is cold, to paperwork you were supposed to fill out or medical histories you were expected to bring, gather what you need the night before.
Be sure to include:
- Your prescription glasses or readers if needed, to make sure you can fill out paperwork, sign forms, or read anything the doctor gives you, like a flyer, notes, or a prescription.
- Your hearing aids if you wear them. Even if you only occasionally need hearing aids, assume you’ll need them for this visit. This is definitely not the time to miss pieces of the conversation or mishear important information the doctor shares with you.
- Your driver’s license and Medicare cards or other health insurance cards.
- Any documents you may need to turn in to the front desk, such as a medical questionnaire or new patient paperwork if applicable.
- Any documents your doctor needs to review. According to Cleveland Clinic’s appointment checklist, these might include x-rays, test results, or your medical history. If you have visited another healthcare provider since your last appointment, bring any notes from that visit or copies of test results you received.
- Any information your doctor asked you to bring to your next appointment. For example, if you have diabetes, your doctor may have asked you to keep a blood glucose journal and possibly a food journal. Maybe your doctor asked you to bring your meter to review how often you’re taking your blood sugar and what the averages have been.
- Any digital health tools or healthcare wearables you use, such as a fitness or activity trackers. If you’re discussing the use of these tools with your doctor, your doctor may appreciate being able to review your results directly.
Getting these items collected the night before will help make your appointment day less stressful.
Take Notes and Follow Instructions
If you are having certain tests or procedures, take note of and follow any special instructions your doctor may have given you for this doctor’s appointment, such as no eating or drinking after midnight the day before. This article gives a few specific tips to keep in mind if you are going in for a skin exam or a colonoscopy, for example.
Make a List of Concerns
WebMD recommends making a list of your symptoms, medications, and anything that has changed since your last doctor’s office visit. Remember that nothing is silly and if it’s important to you, it’s important to share. You might include notes like these:
- You haven't been sleeping well recently, or you're finding it hard to get to sleep.
- Your appetite has increased or decreased.
- You get dizzy when you stand up or shortly after you take a medication.
- You're having pain in your joints, muscles, abdomen, or anywhere else, whether occasional or ongoing.
- You're feeling exceptionally grumpy or lonely lately.
- You've started taking vitamins, over-the-counter medications, or a new prescription from a different doctor.
- You'd like to start an exercise program, or you have already started one.
- You had a medical emergency since your last appointment.
This is also a good time to note any questions you might have about diet, exercise, sleep, future tests or treatments, or any other concerns you might have about your health.
Please note: If you are a member of CareSync, your Health Assistant can help you prepare for your doctor’s office visit with Visit Planner.
Let us know about your appointments and we’ll take information about your health and progress since your last doctor’s office visit, add any questions you have or concerns you want to discuss, and get that information to your doctor before your appointment.
With Visit Planner, we can help your doctor plan ahead so the practice’s schedule stays streamlined and you get the most benefit from your time with your doctor.
Be Thorough and Honest
In order to prepare for a doctor's office visit, make a list of your questions and symptoms in advance.
Whatever you do, ask all your questions and share any of your symptoms. Don’t let embarrassment get in the way of getting help. Your doctor has heard it all and needs to hear what is going on with you.
You may not realize how important a piece of information can be in helping a doctor spot a potential problem in time or properly diagnose a condition. Symptoms like excessive gas, lack of sexual desire, frequent diarrhea, blood in your urine, etc. are all important to tell your doctor.
Things you think are just a “natural part of aging” or are “to be expected” may not be. You might shrug off being tired all the time as part of getting older, when in fact an inactive thyroid may be at fault. You might think a persistent cough is something you’ve been stuck with since you caught the flu last fall, when it’s really something that needs to be looked into further.
Likewise, be truthful when asked questions. Your doctor isn’t asking questions to judge you, but to help you.
It’s okay and important to tell your doctor about alcohol consumption, recreational drug use, sexual activity, smoking, etc. It’s also important to answer truthfully about how much exercise you’re doing or if you’re taking your medications as directed.
Consider Bringing Someone With You
You may want to bring a spouse, friend, family member, or caregiver with you.
A companion can not only help you pass the time in the waiting room, but they can also help you remember what you wanted to discuss with the doctor during your appointment, or what the doctor discussed with you.
It can be difficult to remember everything in a doctor’s appointment, and that holds true whether you’re young or old, a good listener or not. Your companion serves as a second pair of eyes and ears. He or she can also take notes for you so you can focus on listening to the doctor and asking the questions you put on your list.
Having someone with you can also be good if you are looking for support when getting test results or when you don’t know how you’ll respond to a procedure you’re having done.
Bring An Interpreter If Needed
If you need an interpreter for the doctor’s appointment, arrange for or request an interpreter in advance. You may want an interpreter simply to make sure you can communicate clearly about your concerns, and that you will understand exactly what the doctor tells you.
Whether in English or any other language, any time you're not sure what the doctor means, ask for clarification. This could mean the difference between properly following lifestyle and medication instructions or not. There's nothing wrong with asking your doctor to explain it again.
Take Charge at Your Doctor's Office Visit
Being sure to prepare for your doctor’s office visit is one way to take charge of your health. It helps you feel more confident when you arrive at the office and more confident when you leave.
Your doctor will appreciate knowing he or she has the important information necessary to make informed decisions about your health, and you can rest easy knowing you got all your questions answered and understood your doctor’s instructions clearly.
Make sure to go over this doctor’s appointment checklist to help you prepare for your next doctor’s office visit.