Hints I’ve learned over the ages about
making a doctor appointment.
Choosing a doctor to see for your appointment
First off – before you make a doctor appointment, make sure the doctor you are going to visit is one you trust. Who gave you the referral to this particular doctor? Sometimes doctors work in groups and have to refer patients to fellow members of the group. Don’t just take the word of a referring doctor – ask that doctor – is this someone in your group? If the answer is yes – ask them if there are any other doctors outside the group that they would recommend? The answer is your first clue that there may be a better choice.
Then don’t hesitate to ask friends and family who may have had interactions with this provider. People who have actually made visits can give you much better information about what to expect.
You can check this doctor out on the internet. If the doctor is in a group, you might have to call their number and get the name of the group. A look at their website will give you their education, specialty, and often additional information.
You can also check the doctor’s rating at sites like https://www.healthgrades.com/ There is an excellent article online by Consumers Reports that gives you information to look for when making a doctor appointment.
Always remember, it will be up to you to make the final decision.
How critical is this doctor appointment?
Next – how critical is this doctor appointment? If it’s a referral from your regular doctor – ask. A critical doctor appointment can be made by the referring doctor and save you weeks of waiting. Don’t be afraid to ask if they will make the appointment for you if that’s the case. Specialists have spaces for emergency visits that come from colleagues. If your referring doctor doesn’t feel that is necessary you can be reassured that while the visit may be necessary, it’s not a critical issue.
If you have decided you need to see a specialist because of some symptom, and if the wait seems longer than you want because of the symptoms you are having, you might get into seeing them much sooner by making an appointment with your primary care physician first and enlisting their help in getting an earlier appointment or reassurance that your problem can wait for the scheduled time available.
Making the doctor appointment
Now – you’re on the phone making your appointment. You have every right to choose the day and time that’s most convenient for you. You will have to work around that doctor’s schedule of course, but it’s amazing how often you can get a time or day you want if you speak up. Going out an extra week for your convenience is surprisingly doable. It just takes you opening up your mouth and making the request.
I have to admit, I do grouse and complain about those rare times when that can’t be fit to my schedule. “The doctor only does surgeries Mondays and Fridays in that location and only in the morning.” I hate morning appointments – Monday’s the day I get my hair done and Friday is never a good day for a surgery. If there are problems, no one is working from the office on the weekend. But I have to choose one or the other. Yes – that happens. 9 am on a Friday? Yuk. It’s a minor procedure so that’s the one I choose. But again – my choice.
What to bring to a new doctor appointment
Showing up at a new doctor, be sure you have a list of medications, allergies, and current health issues to hand to them. When forms are handed to you to fill out, if your list of any of these is extensive, ask the receptionist to make a copy of your list. You don’t have to spend time copying 20 items all over again. Someone is only going to copy the information into their computers anyway so it doesn’t have to be on their forms.
When you arrive at a doctor appointment
Now, you’re at the appointment. Time to evaluate this appointment. How were you greeted when you arrived? Where you appraised of any waits and why? Is the waiting area neat and clean? Are seats comfortable and enough for the number waiting? Are there items for diversion while you wait? Is there information on possible reasons for your visit available? How do others waiting for appointments appear? Do they look tense, angry, or at ease and comfortable with the wait?
This will let you in on the first hint of how the visit may go. The atmosphere in the waiting room gives an amazing picture of what lies ahead. I’ve been in waiting rooms where patients are laughing and ready to chat and reassure newcomers and others where everyone looks ready to fight. And yes, I left each visit feeling similar to the emotions I perceived in the waiting room.
Meeting a new doctor
You will probably start the visit with a new doctor with a nurse or medical technician obtaining information from you. Did they introduce themselves and give you a name? If they have to touch you in any way (Blood pressure, pulse, oximeter), did they cleanse their hands? When you were asked questions, did they listen to what you were saying? Did the questions asked seem appropriate for the visit?
When the doctor arrives, did they knock before entering? Did they introduce themselves? Were you asked the reason for the visit? Did they encourage you to describe your problem in your own words? Did you feel like they were listening to you? Or had they already made a judgment about what was wrong?
Here is a place where it’s very good to be able to hand them a written out list of all your problems and symptoms. Doctor’s time is limited and you will get more information across to them if they can read off a written list. Reading takes less time for them and will be a safe way to make sure all your concerns are addressed.
Too many times you are nervous about a first appointment and it’s not until you’ve left that you remember important issues you wanted to be addressed but you forgot to bring them up.
When the doctor orders tests for you at your appointment
Most times before a final diagnosis is made, additional tests may be needed. Ask about them. You may have had the same tests from the referring doctor recently and they may not need to be repeated. Here’s where it’s a good idea to have copies of at least the last 3 tests that you have had and the results of those. Did the doctor tell you why the tests were being ordered?
You should know what the doctor is looking for or is trying to eliminate as possible diagnoses. This includes blood work, x-rays, MRI’s and biopsy information that may have been done in the past. Not only the information from these tests but changes since the test was performed, may help in making a diagnosis. This becomes the time where having a collection of your medical records and information becomes important for you to have with you.
Information you should have when leaving a Doctor’s Appointment
Before you leave the doctor’s appointment you should have had all of your questions answered. You should have a clear idea of the direction the doctor is moving towards.
- Is there a diagnosis? If not, what are the possibilities that are being looked at?
- Were you given a return appointment?
- What symptoms should you be watching for?
- Are there new medications to take?
- Do you know what they are for and what are they supposed to do? What side effects could they cause and which side effects need to be reported?
- Are tests ordered? Who will schedule them? Do you need to do anything in preparation for these tests? Where will they be done?
- Does your insurance cover them?
Keeping track of Doctor Appointments and Recommendations
The information you get from a doctor appointment can be considerable. You may feel rushed and nervous. It’s always a good idea to have another adult along with you at doctor appointments to help remember all you were told. Many times you will be given printed information about a new condition, an ordered test, or a new medication.
Be sure to take some time before you leave to read the information to make sure you understand what is in it. Too often, people leave the doctor’s office in a rush, and then get home and don’t understand some directions that they have been given. It’s better to schedule an extra 15minutes into your appointment time for you to sit down and read through and digest the information you’ve been given.
Bring something with you to take notes both during the visit with the doctor and afterward. The sooner information is written down, the better it is remembered. Many times an accompanying adult can take notes during the visit and go over information they have with you before you leave.
Ways to keep track of doctor appointment information
In this day and age of computers, many people like the idea of keeping medical information on their computers. That sounds very good until it’s the time when you need the information – like at that doctor appointment. A more practical way to keep track of information is the good old paper way.
Three-ring binders with dividers let you store information from a variety of sources in an easy to use format. I recommend using dividers with pockets to store business cards and information given at the doctor appointment. These also can hold the DVD’s from x-rays and MRI’s that you can then take with you when needed.
Yes, your primary physician may keep your records on a website for you to check, but not all doctor’s will have access to that website nor want to take the time to look for your information. But, they will take paperwork that you have printed from those websites and review it at a visit. Being able to produce needed information about your medical condition can save duplication of expensive tests and speed up your diagnosis and treatment.
When you sign up for Nana’s News below, you can get a list of medical information you should have on hand.
Love, Hugs, and Prayers,
“Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”