Prepare for your first visit to a new doctor

Prepare for your first visit to a new doctor by asking the right questions and documenting your medical history.

Whether by choice or chance, you may find yourself in the position of having to look for a new primary care doctor. Once you have narrowed your list of potential physicians, it will be time to prepare for the first appointment. Michigan State University Extension suggests you consider asking some of the following questions as you set up your appointment:

  • Is the doctor taking new patients?
  • What type of insurance does the office accept? Are claims handled at the office or is the patient responsible for payment up front and then filing the claim?
  • Does the office accept credit cards for payment or deductibles? If not, be prepared to pay in cash or write a check.
  • How long is the wait for an appointment?
  • Does the office have evening or weekend appointments?
  • How much time does the doctor typically spend with a patient?
  • Is the doctor part of a group practice? Who are the other doctors?
  • Who will I see if my doctor isn’t available?
  • Which hospital(s) does the doctor use?
  • Is lab work done in the office or will I need to go somewhere else? What about x-rays?
  • What is the cancelation policy if I am not able to make it to an appointment?

There are also some more specific questions that you might want to consider asking, depending on your situation:

  • Does the doctor have experience treating my medical condition(s)?
  • Is the doctor board certified?
  • If you (the patient) speak a different language than the doctor, is there someone in the doctor’s office who speaks your language?

Chances are the doctor’s office will have questions for you too. They will most likely ask you to either bring a list of your medications or the medications themselves with you to the first visit. In either case you will want to be sure to bring both prescription medicines as well as any over-the-counter medications that you take, including herbal remedies, vitamins, supplements, ointments, eye drops and suppositories. To the best of your ability you should include the name of the person who prescribed the medication, the dosage and how long you’ve been taking it.

The doctor’s office will also ask you to complete a health history form the first time you visit. To make that process easier, write down as much information as you can about your own health conditions. For example, if you’ve had any surgeries that should be noted, as well as the date of the surgery and the name of the surgeon. You’ll be asked to list any drug and food allergies that you may have as well as any ongoing medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, ulcer, high blood pressure, heart disease, etc. You should be ready to indicate whether your parents and your siblings have, or had, any ongoing medical conditions as well.

Preparing yourself beforehand will help to make the doctor’s visit a little easier and it will help you decide if this is the right doctor for you.

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