Preparing for Your Doctor’s Appointment

Preparing for Your Doctor’s Appointment

Have you ever found yourself driving home from your doctor’s appointment frustrated because you forgot to ask the questions or concerns you had intended? It happens to many people but there is a way to avoid these frustrations and have a more satisfying drive home.

Whether you are going for a regular check-up or seeing someone for a second opinion, doctor appointments can be overwhelming. From the normal stress of the visit, regardless of its purpose, to the worry about getting bad news it often seems that the things you wanted to discuss disappear from our thoughts and you leave feeling dissatisfied. But with a little preparation, you can improve your relationship with your doctor and get the answers you need. “It is very helpful when my patients are prepared for their visit with a list of questions and/or concerns; a plan they’ve developed. Their plan keeps me informed and can we can have a more meaningful discussion that can lead to improved patient care,” said Sonya Hollingsworth, MD, Marsho Family Medical Group.

To get started, begin a list of things that you want to discuss at your next appointment. It is best to have the list written down, so you are not relying on, in an already somewhat anxious situation, your memory. Prioritize your list beginning with the things that concern you most. If you have a list, share it with your doctor so he/she can follow it with you. “Your doctor wants to answer all of your questions, but sometimes there is not enough time or there may be some questions that can’t be answered until a test result is in,” said Dr. Hollingsworth. By sharing your list with your doctor, he/she can follow-up with you later by phone or via email through your electronic chart such as My Chart.

In addition to a list of concerns, it will be important for you to have the following:

  1. A list of your current medications, the dosage and the frequency in which you take each pill including over the counter and supplements.

  2. Remember your allergies or sensitivities and make sure you include medications, foods and body care products.

  3. Knowledge about your family health history

  4. If you are seeing a new doctor or specialist, make sure your primary care doctor has or is receiving your medical records from him/her and vis-a-versa.

  5. Sometimes it is a good idea to bring a family member or friend to your appointment. Anxiety and worry can often lead to your not remembering things the doctor said; a family member or friend will help you remember as well as offer extra moral support.

Many people like to research things on the internet and/or social media. However, Dr. Hollingsworth warns that, “Many sites are not credible and may mis-lead you. I tell my patients to ask me about something they’re thinking of trying before they do it.” The best place to get more information is by talking with your doctor and developing your list is the way to begin. If you want to read or learn more ask him/her for a recommended list of websites, you can visit or books you could read.

“Most importantly, patient outcomes are dependent on successful communication. Open communication may obtain more complete information, enhance the prospect of a more accurate diagnosis, and facilitate appropriate counseling, thus potentially improving the patient’s adherence to treatment plans that benefit his/her long-term health,” said Dr. Hollingsworth. This type of communication is often referred to as the partnership model because it increases the patient’s involvement in his/her health care through negotiation and consensus-building between the patient and physician. “When patients come for their visits prepared to discuss their conditions, concerns and questions I am better equipped to respond, and they leave with a better understanding of their health and higher satisfaction in the care they are receiving.”