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Preparing for a Doctor's Visit

Have you ever made an appointment to discuss an important issue with your doctor, only to forget some of the questions you wanted to ask when the doctor enters the room? Have you ever forgotten some of the instructions the doctor gave you or the names of tests or diagnoses after you returned home? Visiting a doctor can make you feel nervous, impatient or even afraid. Being prepared can help you provide the doctor with important information he/she needs to recommend the best treatment. It also can help you take better care of yourself. Here are some tips to help prepare for your next doctor’s visit, and two worksheets you can use to take notes about what you want to ask and what your doctor says.

Before Your Visit: Things to Do Before Your Appointment

  • Bring your insurance cards and any forms you need filled out.
  • Make a list of things you want to talk to your doctor about and take it with you. 
  • Make a list of all medicines (both prescription and over-the-counter) and vitamins/minerals you take. Write down the name, strength and how often you take it. List refills you need approved.
  • Bring a notepad, tape recorder, or a trusted relative or friend to help you take notes.
  • If you have more than one health care provider, keep your own medical history file. Put results of tests and family history in the file and take it with you to share with your doctor. Keep it up to date.
  • If you need an interpreter, let the receptionist know when you schedule your appointment so someone can be there when you arrive. 
  • If you are using scheduled transportation and need to reserve a pick-up time, ask the receptionist how much time you should allow for the visit.

During Your Visit: Don’t be Afraid to Ask or to Tell

  • Make sure you understand what your doctor says. Ask your doctor to explain medical words, tests and treatments. If you have questions or don’t understand, ask your doctor to explain or repeat. 
  • Ask your doctor to write down instructions for you or write them down yourself and read them back. 
  • Ask your doctor where you can find more about your problem or the treatment. 
  • Be honest with your doctor about your diet, exercise, tobacco use, alcohol or drug use. Your visit is confidential, and not telling your doctor something important can be harmful. 
  • If you are deaf or hard of hearing, let the receptionist know how to signal you when it’s your turn.
  • If you read lips, let your doctor know so he will be sure to face you and make eye contact and not speak through a mask.

After Your Visit: What to Do Next

  • If possible, schedule your next appointment before you leave so you won’t forget. Schedule tests or appointments with other doctors right away, but remember to check insurance coverage if needed.
  • If you are confused or have forgotten some information, call your doctor’s office and ask to speak to a nurse. The nurse can look at your chart and find the information for you.
  • Take the amount of medicine your doctor told you, and take it at the right time.
  • If you feel worse or have problems with your medicine, contact your doctor right away.

To learn more about the Illinois Disability and Health Program, or to receive this fact sheet in accessible formats, contact the Illinois Department of Public Health, Disability and Health Program, at 217-782-3300, TTY 800-547-0466. 

This fact sheet was supported by Grant/Cooperative Agreement Number U59DD000271 from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of CDC.