How to make the most of each doctor visit

Your best health advocate is you! Check out these ideas on how to be prepared for your next doctor visit.

Follow these guidelines to help make sure that you and your doctor cover everything in your next appointment:


  1. Make a list of what you want to discuss. For instance, do you have a new pain, new bump or rash, trouble sleeping, or other symptoms? Let your doctor know what has happened in your life since your last visit, such as emergency room treatment, specialist visits and major life events.

  2. Take notes. And if you don’t understand something, ask.

  3. Be honest and detailed. Remember, your visit is confidential, and details help you get appropriate care.

  4. Don't be embarrassed. Your doctor has already heard everything you might possibly say. If you plan to discuss a personal topic, practice in advance. For example, once you’ve said it to your mirror a few times, it’s easier to say, "I have rectal bleeding."

  5. Keep an open mind. Don’t come in with a fixed idea about treatment or next steps.

  6. Bring all your medications—prescription drugs, over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal remedies or supplements. Or, bring a list of everything you take and the dose. Let the doctor know about medications you have tried that caused side effects or didn't work.

  7. Consider bringing a family member or friend for another set of ears.

  8. Request an interpreter if the doctor doesn’t speak your language.

  9. Don’t forget your insurance card.

Seeing this doctor for the first time?

Get off to the right start with this guidance:

Introduce yourself and let the doctor and office staff members know the name you prefer.

Learn which days are busiest and what times are best to call. Ask what to do if there is an emergency, or if you need a doctor when the office is closed.

Share your medical history, including illnesses, operations, medical conditions and other doctors you see and have seen. Most doctors will have you complete a medical history form and release to get medical records from other providers: consider getting the form to complete it before your visit or go a bit early for your first appointment.