Expert Advice for Your First Meeting With a New Doctor
Meeting a new physician can be stressful and intimidating if you don’t know how to prepare. During a check-up, especially at the first appointment with a new doctor, there are many aspects of your healthcare to discuss. After speaking with your new physician and answering all of the questions she has asked you, you may need to ask her to clarify some things. Also, pay attention to how you feel about these discussions with your new doctor. You want to feel comfortable and have some reassurance that the physician can provide the level of healthcare that you seek. If not, you may want to consider seeking out a different healthcare provider who is a better fit for you.
Use this handy checklist to make sure you're well prepared for your appointment and have a list of questions to ask. Read on to find out 15 topics to address during and after your first visit with the new doctor.
- Medical history and current symptoms: Your physician will ask you if you have any medical diagnoses or conditions, the date of diagnosis, and the status of these conditions. She will also want to know what specialists you see, as well as about any hospitalizations you have required for your health care. Having this information on hand will be very helpful in assessing your baseline health status. You should also discuss current medical issues, but your doctor may want to schedule a separate appointment to address diagnosis.
- Surgical history: Your doctor will also ask about your surgical history. What surgeries have you had and why? When were they and were there any complications? Have you ever had any reactions to anesthesia? Be sure to write the answers to these questions down as well.
- Allergies: Your physician will need to know what medications, foods, or environmental allergens you are allergic to and what reactions they cause. Knowing what you are allergic to will be essential in making sure you don't take medications that you're allergic to, should you end up in the hospital.
- Medications: As mentioned above, be sure to know the name, exact dosage, and frequency (the number of times you take per day) of every prescription medication, over the counter drug, supplement, and vitamin you are taking. Bring the bottles if you need to. Your doctor will need to know the comprehensive list because various medications and supplements can interact negatively.
- Family history: It will be useful to be aware of the medical and surgical conditions of your siblings, parents, and grandparents, including their diagnoses and date of diagnosis. If any of these family members have passed away, you should know at what age and from what condition.
- Immunizations: Be sure to write down or bring a printed record of every immunization you have had and the year it was administered so your physician will know what vaccines to recommend and which ones you need.
- Screening tests: Your doctor will want to know if your screening tests are up to date, what the latest results were, and if you have ever had any abnormal results. Some examples include screening blood tests (cholesterol, diabetes screening, thyroid panel, liver function tests), colonoscopies and fecal occult blood tests, skin exams for skin cancer, TB tests, bone density tests, mammograms, and pap smears. Your doctor may want to order new tests.
- Alternative therapies: Do you use any complementary or alternative therapies for your maintenance healthcare? These include acupuncture, chiropractic medicine, biofeedback, herbal remedies, as well as many others. Knowing which ones you use is useful to the doctor, especially if they interact with any of the prescription medications you are taking.
- Lifestyle health: Knowing a little more about your life will help your physician serve you best. She may ask questions about where you live and with whom. Other related questions include what is your occupation and are there any environmental exposures there? Do you drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes or use any illicit drugs? What is your diet like, do you exercise and how are your sleeping habits? Your doctor will also likely inquire about domestic abuse or whether you feel safe at home. Honest answers to all of these questions will help your doctor determine whether you are at risk for any relevant environmental or associated health problems.
- Mental health: Your doctor will also likely check in with you about your mental health including inquiries about depression and anxiety, as well as other common disorders. Your mental health affects your physical health, and your physician can help you seek any necessary mental health care.
- Sexual health: Your new physician will also likely ask about your sexual history, including partners, contraception, and inquire about any infections. Some of these questions may seem too personal to you, but they are essential in providing optimal care.
- Future healthcare planning: Take note of all the recommendations, references, new medications and advice they have provided you. Make sure to recap what next steps you need to take. Accept any medical pamphlets or literature they offer you and be sure to read it.
- Follow-up visits: At your appointment, your doctor will recommend any necessary follow-up appointments. Make sure to schedule any necessary subsequent appointments with the office staff at a time that is convenient for you.
- Prescriptions: You may want to call your insurance provider to make sure your policy covers any new prescriptions. If not, you can call the doctor to find out if you can adjust the order. Be sure to fill and pick up your prescription promptly and follow up with your doctor’s office or pharmacist if you experience any issues or have any questions about the medication.
- Questions and concerns: Call the doctor if you realize you have any remaining questions or concerns following your first visit. If you were unsatisfied with the doctor’s visit or felt uncomfortable with him or her for any reason, consider seeking a different physician for the future. Remember, you are your doctor’s paying customer, and you should be fully satisfied with the health care they provide.
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