How do I get the most out of my appointments?

To make sure you are getting the most out of your visit to your healthcare provider, it is important to be prepared. Below are some helpful tips:

Before your appointment

  • Make a list of any questions or concerns you may want to discuss with your provider. Examples include:
    • “What is causing me to feel this way?”
    • “Can you recommend steps I can take to feel better?”
  • Make a list of all medications you currently take, including over-the-counter (OTC) medications, prescriptions, vitamins, and herbal remedies. Or, put all of them in a bag and bring it to your appointment.
  • Be sure to include a list of any allergies you have. Note any bad reactions you have had to medications.
  • Ask a friend or family member to go with you. This person can help listen, take notes, and help you remember what was said.
  • Educate yourself
    • You may want to learn more about your symptoms or your diagnosis before your appointment. This can help you understand what your healthcare provider tells you. It can also help you to know what questions you want to ask during your appointment.
    • For resources, refer to your health plan’s website or other trustworthy websites.

For a printable checklist of what to do before your appointment, please click here.

During your appointment

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality suggests the following steps to help ensure you are getting the most out of your appointment:

During your visit to your healthcare provider:

  • Explain why you made the appointment.
  • Ask your most important questions first.
  • Answer your provider’s questions as completely and honestly as you can.
  • Make sure your healthcare provider gives you a diagnosis, or what is wrong with you. If you don’t understand the information you have been provided or the next steps you should take, ask questions. You know your health better than anyone else, so do not be shy about asking for more information.
  • If you think of additional questions later, write them down and follow up with your provider or staff in their office.
  • Know the next steps for your treatment.
  • Ask for written instructions, studies, summaries of risks and benefits, brochures, videos or websites that may help you learn more.

If you want to know more information, consider asking your provider the following questions:

  • What is my diagnosis?
  • Why is it important for me to have this treatment?
  • How will this treatment help me? Do I have other choices? What are the pros and cons of each treatment?
  • Excuse me, I didn’t understand what you said. Can you please say it again in a different way?
  • What is this test for? What will we learn from doing this test?
  • Are there side effects I need to watch for?
  • What is this medicine for and why do I need to take it?
  • Once I (or my child) starts on this medicine, how soon should I/they be feeling better?
  • What happens if I don’t take this medicine?
  • Do I need to change my daily routine?
  • Is there anything (vitamins, prescriptions, herbal supplements) I should not be taking alongside this medication?

For a printable checklist of what to do during your appointment, please click here.

After your appointment

After you meet with your healthcare provider, you should follow his or her instructions to stay on track. Your provider may have you fill a prescription or make appointments for other tests, lab work, or a follow-up visit. Be sure to follow up with your provider if you have any questions about their instructions.

If you start experiencing side effects or other issues with your medicine or if your symptoms continue to get worse, call your provider. You should also follow up with your provider if you receive any new prescriptions, need results from any tests you may have had during your visit, or need clarification about test results you may not understand.

Remember, staying on top of your health even after an appointment has taken place is just as important as preparing for an appointment. You are ultimately your own best health advocate.