Getting the Most From Your Doctor’s Visit

By Laura Picciano, DO
Internal Medicine Physician, Ripa Center for Women’s Health and Wellness

doctor and patientThe kids are back in school, summer’s fun and craziness is behind you, so what better way to get started and improve your health as we end 2016? A visit to the doctor’s office can be a stressful experience, so read on for some helpful tips to alleviate the anxiety.

Know your practice’s policies: This can be accomplished by speaking with a patient service representative or reviewing your doctor’s website. First, be sure the practice accepts your insurance. Ask about the practice’s hours and alternate locations that suit your schedule. Inquire about hospital affiliations: in the event of an emergency, your doctor is likely to admit you to that particular hospital. Depending on your insurance, you may need to have procedures and studies, such as MRI and X-rays, done at a particular hospital or outpatient center. Ask about allied health personnel: will you be seeing a doctor or a nurse practitioner? Know how the practice handles after-hours emergencies and test results. Ask about the practice’s appointment cancellation/lateness policies.

If it is your first visit: Try to obtain any pertinent health history records from previous doctors to bring with you to your visit. If a medical release form is needed, have your new doctor’s office send the form to your previous doctor’s office.  Know the address, fax, and phone number of the previous practice in order to facilitate this process. Write down all your medications and dosages for your new doctor, including supplements and over-the-counter medications. Arrive early in order to complete paperwork (or ask to have it mailed beforehand) and be sure to bring any identification/insurance cards and co-pay payments with you. Many institutions have an app that allows you to communicate with your health care provider, view test results, and even schedule appointments. Patients are now being encouraged to use these applications through certain government criteria, so be sure to get connected. It may be helpful to write down a list of concerns beforehand, especially if you get nervous. If you need to bring a friend or family member along, then do it!

Always be sure to keep your contact information updated, and tell your doctor’s office the best way to get in touch with you. If it is not alright to leave a phone message or send a letter to your home, inform the office staff. Wear comfortable clothing, especially if your visit requires you to change your clothes (like getting a physical exam).

Never be embarrassed to bring a notepad/tablet to write things down that you may forget during your visit. If you do not understand your practitioner’s instructions, ask for clarification before you leave.

There’s no time like the present to get in your annual wellness visit. Do yourself a favor and make a call to schedule today.

To make an appointment for a wellness visit with a Cooper Internal Medicine physician or Family Medicine physician, please call 1.800.8.COOPER or use our online appointment request form.

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