12 Tips for Preparing Before a Doctor's Appointment

To prepare for a doctor's appointment, it's best to be as precise as possible about the reasons for the consultation. Learn more here!
12 Tips for Preparing Before a Doctor's Appointment

Last update: 31 October, 2021

Preparing before a doctor’s appointment is a smart decision. Not only does it help you get the most out of your meeting with the doctor, but it also helps you avoid leaving out important information or details.

It also helps you avoid making mistakes or inaccuracies. You arrive at the consultation with your ideas in order and with a clear picture in your mind. This way, the doctor will have more and better elements to know how best to proceed.

More than anything, it’s necessary to clearly identify the reasons for the consultation. Also, it’s crucial to be clear about the questions to ask and provide specific information about medications or ongoing treatments.

Tips for preparing before a doctor’s appointment

Preparing before a medical appointment means compiling the information you need to provide to the doctor and being clear about what you want to get out of it. To make this process easier, the following tips are helpful.

1. The main reason for the consultation

The first thing to consider when preparing for a doctor’s appointment is the reason for the appointment. Generally speaking, there are three types of appointments: initial or new doctor, symptom, and general checkup.

In an initial or new doctor appointment, the main purpose is to update you on your health status and communicate a particular event. At a follow-up appointment, the goal is to let you know what changes or new developments have occurred since the last appointment.

A general checkup appointment is intended to be a routine checkup. This is also where you should update your doctor on your health status and events that have occurred in the past year, even if they don’t seem relevant.

2. Prioritize your list of concerns for a doctor’s appointment

When there are specific concerns about health, medications, the progress of a pre-existing condition, or a particular event, it’s ideal to make a list. This should contain each and every one of the issues that are causing concern.

This inventory will be very useful so that the most important issues are addressed in the consultation. If this isn’t enough to review everything, you’ll also have a clear record of what’s pending for your next appointment.

Cita con un médico.
Doctors encourage their patients to make lists of doubts and issues to be addressed in the consultation.

3. Medical history or health history

One of the documents to bring to an initial appointment or check-up is the medical history.

In most cases, the doctor will probably already have it digitized and online. However, the patient should have read it beforehand, and it never hurts to bring it in physical form (if that option exists in the country where you live).

4. Medical history information

At a first-time visit or check-up, the doctor should be told about the relevant history. It’s therefore necessary to have it very clear and written down.

Plus, it’s also very important to tell the doctor what treatments the patient is currently undergoing. It’s advisable to specify if he/she has also undergone aesthetic treatments in the last year.

5. Medication information

This is another fundamental aspect to prepare for a doctor’s appointment. Keeping a list of the medications you are taking is crucial.

You should write down the exact names, dosages, how long you’ve been taking them, and for what condition they were prescribed. This list should also include supplements, alternative or natural medicines, home remedies, and anything else that is taken or applied for therapeutic purposes.

6. Have any relevant documents on hand

In addition to the documents that prove to the health system, the patient should bring any recent exams or tests that have not been reviewed by the doctor or that are considered significant.

7. Report health events as thoroughly as possible

If you want to get the most out of the medical appointment, it is best to report health events as completely as possible.

Since the most common is to consult for pain, there is a method called OPQRST (for its English acronym) that allows you to make a very complete report.

Here’s how you use it:

  • O: Origin of the event: What were you doing when the pain started? Is the pain sudden, gradual or chronic?
  • Q: Provocation of the problem: Is the pain better or worse with activity, position, or adjuvant?
  • Q: Quality of pain: Is the pain shooting, dull, or sharp?
  • A: Region and radiation of pain: Where is the pain located in the body? Is it also coming from other parts of the body?
  • S: Severity of pain: Rate the pain from 1 to 10.
  • T: Time of the event: When did the pain start? Has it gotten better or worse?

8. Keep symptom records

Whether it is pain or some other type of abnormality, it’s best to record the symptoms in great detail. Preparing before a doctor’s appointment means having the following information clear:

  • Is there pain? If yes, apply the OPQRST method.
  • In which area of the body did you detect an abnormality?
  • What are the characteristics of the detected abnormality?
  • Know the date on which it was detected.
  • Take note of any other symptoms associated with the main symptom.
  • Keep a record of any other actions that were taken to correct the problem.

9. Be ready to share lifestyle information at a doctor’s appointment

You need to give the doctor some general, relevant lifestyle information. This includes:

  • Type of diet followed.
  • Any physical activity you do.
  • If you smoke or not, and in what proportion The same goes for alcohol and psychoactive drugs.
  • Sleep patterns.
  • Current events or situations that may be causing stress.

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10. Prepare your questions ahead of time

Preparing before a doctor’s appointment also involves making a list of relevant questions to ask the doctor. It’s advisable to prioritize them and try to make them as concrete as possible.

11. Organize everything in advance

It’s best to leave all documents and notes ready the day before the appointment. Time should be arranged so that you arrive at the doctor’s office well in advance.

If you have any doubts about what to do or need any assistance, it’s always a good idea to bring a companion with you.

12. Take notes at a doctor’s appointment

A doctor’s appointment sometimes involves a lot of information flow. Therefore, it is a good idea to take notes on what is important.

Consulta médica para anotar datos.
Both the doctor and the patient can write down relevant information so that it’s not forgotten after the appointment.

Useful questions to ask the doctor at a doctor’s appointment

Good communication with the doctor is very important to keep things running smoothly. Part of that communication is the questions that the patient should ask.

It’s best to take into account the following variables and specify the questions you want to ask the professional:

  • Illnesses or symptoms: This has to do with the meaning of the signs and the nature of the illness you’re suffering from. Also, it helps clarify expectations and prognosis.
  • Medications: Know what each one is for, its benefits and risks, precautions that need to be taken, alternative names, and whether generic versions are available.
  • Tests: Know what each test is for, whether it requires special preparation, or has risks.
  • Treatment: Know the purpose, duration, benefits, and drawbacks, effectiveness, and alternative options.

Honesty is the best policy at a doctor’s appointment

Beyond preparing before a medical appointment, it’s important to be aware that the doctor should not be kept in the dark. Honesty is essential, both to build trust and to properly address the problem.

Although medical appointments are time-limited, this should not be an obstacle to asking questions as needed. The patient has every right to seek clarity about what is happening to them and to understand what their doctor is doing for them.

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