There is much that happens at a typical doctor’s appointment, so knowing what to bring is essential.
1. Paper and Pencil
Always bring something to write on when seeing your doctor. Much will be said and you want to make sure to take notes. Don’t be afraid to clarify with your doctor what you think was said.
2. A Second Set of Ears
Always try to bring someone else with you to the appointment – a spouse, an older or adult child, a sibling, a friend, or a neighbor. Having a second set of ears helps both the patient and the doctor. If that person can also take the notes, it will make it easier for you to stay engaged with the doctor. If no one else is available, bring a digital recorder. Most physicians are fine with that.
3. A Summary of Your Most Recent Blood Work
Most doctors want blood work done prior to the visit. Prior to the appointment, call the doctor’s office to make sure you have an order for every test the doctor wishes you to have done. At the lab, ask how soon the doctor will receive the results so the doctor has them by the time of your appointment. The two major labs, Labcorp and Quest, have patient portals where you can also download the results at home. Bring your copy to the doctor, just in case the office did not receive the results in time. Also bring any recent blood test results that your other doctors have ordered to the appointment.
4. A List of Current Medications
At home, make a list of all your current medications. List prescription medications as well as supplements like vitamins and other over-the-counter medications. Note how often you take the medication, the dosage (how many pills per day), and the strength (50 mg, 100 mg, etc.). Note any known allergies you have to medications and let the doctor know. Also have the name, location, and phone number of the pharmacy you use.
5. Your Appointment Book or Smartphone
You may need a followup appointment, you may need to schedule a procedure, or you may need to note a date when the doctor wants you to call the office. Bring your appointment book or wherever you keep your schedule.
6. A List of Questions
List every question that pops into your head as you prepare for the visit. Don’t depend on your memory. Some of those questions may be answered during the examination. Others may not. It is up to us to make sure that before the doctor leaves the examination room, we get every question on our list and any new questions completely answered. The doctor may try to rush this part of the visit. The key is not to let that happen. Insist that the doctor sit down for another few minutes. Never leave a doctor’s appointment not fully understanding what has been said and the directions you need to follow.
7. A List of Refills You Currently Need
It is often difficult to get through to the doctor and get a refill ordered. Inventory your prescription medications before the visit, and bring a list of the medications for which you will soon need refills. Talk to your pharmacist if you need some help.
8. A List of Your Doctors and Therapists
Prepare for each doctor you see a complete list of your other doctors. Include the name and address of each physician, the phone number, and the specialty. Include your rehab therapists and mental health professionals. You can also include your preferred blood lab and preferred imaging center.
9. How You Prefer to Be Reached
The office will ask you how you prefer to be contacted about test results. If you prefer to be called by the doctor directly, indicate that. If you are OK with the office leaving test results on your answering machine, let them know. If texting works, indicate so. You have the right to receive information in whatever manner you choose. Personally, I insist that the doctor call me and talk to me directly. Since my doctor ordered the blood work or the imaging and had a reason for doing so, I want the doctor to call me back so that we can talk about it. Be sure to let your doctor know that you expect to hear from the doctor as soon as the test results are received.
10. Your Insurance Information
Finally, always bring your current insurance card and a photo ID. Many offices today will not allow you to see the doctor unless you present them. If your policy requires referrals, be sure to have them. If your insurance has changed since your last visit, let the office staff know. Being proactive with communicating your current insurance information at the time of the visit will prevent problems with billing and paying unnecessary co-pays at the time of the visit.