Your first appointment with a new doctor might feel daunting. It makes total sense — you’re about to meet a stranger and immediately trust them to give you advice about your body. That’s nerve-wracking, and it’s best to go in prepared. Here’s how to keep things running smoothly and get the most out of your visit.
Bring Your Medical Records
Your new physician will make better judgments about your health if they can see your medical history, including any medications you take and their dosages, your allergies and the procedures or surgeries you’ve undergone, along with any other notable medical issues you may have. This information allows your new doctor to pick up where your last one left off, which means a seamless transition for your care. If you don’t have your records, a former primary care doctor can easily send or fax them to you or to your new doctor.
You might also want to familiarize yourself with your family’s medical history before heading to the office. Does heart disease run in your mother’s side of the family? Have any close relatives been treated for cancer? Being able to share your family history will help alert your doctor to health risks you might be carrying.
Plan Your Conversation
Whether you have a specific health question in mind or just need an annual checkup, come to the appointment with at least a general idea of what kinds of questions you want to ask. Not only will taking the time to write down questions in advance ensure that you’ve thought through them properly, but it also will help you spend your time with the doctor more efficiently. If you look down at your list of questions and half of them are about how to avoid getting sick, for instance, then you know to guide the discussion toward prevention early on in the appointment.
If you have specific health concerns, you may also want to start a journal marking when any issues bother you in the weeks leading up to your appointment. When a new doctor asks about a symptom you’re experiencing, this will help them contextualize your concerns and keep track of how they’ve progressed.
Check Your Coverage
Before you make an appointment with a new doctor, double-check that your plan will cover any care you’re hoping to receive. In a pinch, your insurance provider should be your go-to for information. They can give you a summary of your benefits and answer any specific questions you have about what’s covered. As you go over your plan information, gather together any documents you need to bring to the appointment, such as your driver’s license and your member ID card or number.
Once you know exactly what kind of support to expect from your insurer, you can itemize what each potential medical need might cost. Make special note of any gaps in your coverage that could allow a medical bill to burn a hole in your pocket. Your new doctor may be able to help you determine whether supplemental plans, which can help cover critical illnesses, accidents or hospital stays, might be worth exploring.
After your first appointment with your new doctor, be sure to take any follow-up steps they recommend. A great doctor can be a wonderful asset to have, but it’s up to you to do your part to make the relationship work. Luckily, doing your part is fairly easy — all you have to do is show up prepared and willing to take their opinion on your health seriously.