5 tips to make the most out of your first doctor's visit

Hande Tuncer's picture
Doctor Practicing Medicine

Doctor's appointments can be stressful and sometimes frustrating. It can be particularly overwhelming if it is your first visit. Here are some helpful tips to make your experience smoother and more pleasant.


Find the clinic’s location and parking information in advance

You can call the clinic in advance or use their website for directions. Most hospitals and clinics offer valet parking with reasonable rates which is worth taking advantage of, especially if cannot walk long distance or have a small one with you. You can almost always find help with directions and wheelchair assistance at the main lobbies. Some clinics can even offer validated free parking if you are receiving outpatient treatment.

Give yourself enough time

Arriving approximately 20 minutes before your scheduled appointment will allow you to have enough time to fill out the forms, give your insurance information, browse through any educational booklets in the waiting area, ask questions to medical assistants and even use the bathroom.

Bring your papers, medications and troops

Don’t forget to bring your insurance card, medication list and other medical records you may have relevant to your visit. It is even better if you send your records to your new doctor’s office in advance. That way he (she) will spend more time with you rather than going through your records which may eat up a good chunk of your visit time. Consider bringing a close friend or family member for several good reasons: be your advocate, keep you focused and organized, help with medical history and ask questions.


Know your doctor

Getting familiar with your doctor’s expertise and experience will maximize the benefit from the visit. What kind of conditions is he (she) expert on? How many years of experience does he (she) have? If you are seeing a primary care doctor, you should be able to bring up most of your concerns; mention the ones that bother you most first. Feel free to ask whether referral to a specialist is appropriate. Focus on the complaints relevant to the doctor’s area of expertise.

Take charge

A lot of people leave doctor’s offices confused and lost. It is important not only to understand why you are there but also feel comfortable about what kind of tests and treatments are offered. Ask questions , take notes. Ask for educational materials about your condition or diagnosis.

After visit

You and your care giver should have a clear plan for any follow-up, preferably written. Make sure the clinic has your correct contact information including phone numbers and mailing address and your doctor understands how you want to be reached for your results: mail, phone or another visit?
Patient-doctor relationships are like any other long-term relationships: you should not settle but find the right fit.

Written by Dr. Hande Tuncer MD, who is a hematologist practicing in the Boston area.