Get Ready for Your Next Doctor’s Appointment
Going to the doctor can be stressful — especially if you’re dealing with new symptoms, or you’ve been to several doctors and still don’t have the answers you need.
You can make the most of your next doctor’s appointment by taking these steps to prepare ahead of time.
Keep track of your symptoms
To get ready for your appointment, keep a record of any symptoms you notice. For each symptom, write down details like:
- How it felt
- Where it hurt
- When did it start and how long did it last
- Anything that made it better or worse
Be as specific as you can — this information will help your doctor figure out the best way to help you. If possible, try to track how you feel on each day using a calendar. You can also use this checklist to stay organized and keep track of your symptoms. You may also keep track of things that affect your health overall such as blood pressure and steps walked.
You may also want to ask a friend or family member to help you get ready for your appointment — or even come with you to the doctor’s office. They can take notes, help you explain your symptoms, and remember things you may have missed.
Be ready for these questions
Your doctor will ask questions to learn more about your symptoms. It’s a good idea to think through how you might answer these questions before your appointment.
- When did you start having this symptom?
- Is this a new symptom, or has it happened before?
- Does anything cause it to happen, make it better, or make it worse?
- Does it happen all the time, or does it come and go? How often does it happen?
- Is it worse in the morning, in the afternoon, or at night?
- Does this symptom make it hard for you to take a shower, get dressed, or do any other things you need to do every day?
- If the symptom is causing pain, how much does it hurt on a scale of 1 (not very painful) to 10 (very painful)?
Bring your medicines
It’s important to tell your doctor about any medicines and supplements you take — including prescriptions, over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, minerals, and herbs. The best way to do this is to bring all your medicines and supplements with you to your appointment. Another option you can do is to take photos of your medications with your cell phone and favorite them to refer to later.
Be sure to tell your doctor:
- How much of each medicine you’re taking and how often you take it
- Whether you’re having side effects from any of your medicines
- Whether you’ve recently stopped taking any medicines or supplements
Share your medical records
Your medical records include test results and notes from any other doctors you’ve seen in the past. You can bring these documents with you or ask your other doctors to send them before your appointment.
By sharing your medical records, you can help your doctor get the full picture of what’s going on with your health — and avoid repeating tests like blood tests, MRIs, or X-rays, which can be expensive and time-consuming.
Asking questions can help you make sure you understand what the doctor is saying — and get the most out of your appointment. Here are a few questions you may want to ask:
- Based on what you know so far, are there any conditions you can rule out?
- Are there any symptoms I need to look out for?
- Is there anything I can do to feel better? (For example, your doctor may recommend that you change your sleep habits or try a new medicine.)
- Is there anything I need to avoid right now? (For example, your doctor may recommend that you avoid certain types of exercise or take steps to prevent getting pregnant.)
Confirm next steps
At the end of your visit, ask your doctor to sum up what you talked about and what will happen next. Before you leave, make sure you know:
- Whether you need to start or stop any medicines, or change how much you’re taking
- Whether you need any tests, like blood tests, MRIs, or X-rays
- When you need to come back for your next appointment
You may want to write down this information so you’ll remember what to do before your next appointment.
Remember, your doctor’s job is to listen and help you. If there’s anything you’re unsure about, it’s always okay to ask your doctor to go over it again.