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Making the Most of Your Appointment


Many people are more satisfied with their health care if they share the responsibility with their doctors. Your doctor is an expert on medical care, but you are the expert on yourself. Often there is more than one option for diagnosing or treating a condition.

By being a partner with your doctor, you can help choose the option that best fits your values, beliefs, and lifestyle. You also will feel more confident about carrying out the chosen treatment.

How can you partner with your doctor?

Here are some tips for being a good partner with your doctor:

  • Build a relationship with your doctor.

    Let your doctor know that you want to be a partner in your health care. Tell the doctor what your expectations are.

  • Tell your doctor if you have accessibility concerns.

    Tell your doctor if you need help moving around at your visit. For example, you could ask for a wheelchair or for help getting on the exam table. Tell your doctor if you are hard of hearing. Ask your doctor if they have handouts in larger print or in a different language. Or tell your doctor if you need an interpreter to speak a language you feel more comfortable using.

  • Be an active participant in each appointment.

    Listen carefully to what your doctor says. If you do not understand a diagnosis or treatment, ask questions. And tell the doctor if you think that following the prescribed treatment will be hard for you.

  • Have a family member or friend with you during your appointment, if possible.

    They can take notes, ask questions to clarify information, and help you remember what your doctor says.

  • Bring your medicines to your appointment.

    If you take prescription or over-the-counter medicines, including herbal remedies or vitamins, bring all of them with you to any appointment with your doctor. If you cannot bring the medicines, bring a list of the medicines that you take.

  • Ask for instructions.

    Before you leave the doctor's office, make sure you know what you are supposed to do to care for yourself. Ask for written information, links to videos and websites, and any other instructions.

  • Be sure to make and go to all appointments.

    Call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

  • Prepare your child for tests and exams.

    Let your child know why they are seeing a doctor and what will be done during the visit. Your child's age and developmental level will determine how best to prepare them. And ask your older child if they would like to speak to the doctor alone. Teens may be more willing to talk about topics such as sexuality, mental health, and drugs or alcohol if they know they can have time on their own with their doctors.

Preparing for Your Appointment

When you prepare for each visit, it helps your doctor give you better care and helps both of you make the most of the visit. Here's what you can do:

  • Be ready to say what your main symptoms are, when they started, and what you have done to treat them so far. It may help to write these things down before your doctor visit.
  • Write down the three questions that you most want to have answered. If the doctor doesn't bring them up, don't be afraid to ask.
  • Bring a list of all the medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements that you are taking.
  • Gather any medical records from previous treatment for the same or a similar problem. This includes copies of recent test results if the tests were done by a different doctor.

Learn more

Asking About Tests and Treatments

Here are some questions you can ask when talking with your doctor about tests and treatments:

  • What is the name of the test, medicine, surgery, or other treatment?
  • Why is it needed?
  • What are the risks?
  • What are potential side effects?
  • Are there alternatives?
  • How much does it cost?
  • What will happen if I decide not to have treatment?
  • How do I prepare for each test or treatment?
  • Is the cost of the medicine covered by my insurance?
  • How do I take this medicine?
  • How will this medicine react with other medicines I am taking?

Learn more

After Your Appointment

After your doctor visit, write down:

  • What your health professional thinks the problem might be.
  • What you might expect to happen next.
  • What you can do to manage your problem at home.

Follow the instructions your doctor gave you, including filling a prescription, scheduling tests, or making another appointment. Call your doctor if you still have questions or if there is anything you do not understand.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if you have any problems or symptoms that concern you. Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety.

Update the medical records that you keep at home, including new test results and medicine changes.


Current as of: August 6, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
Clinical Review Board
All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.