10 Mistakes People Make at Their Doctor Visits

  • Mistake 1: Not Preparing
    The average doctor’s appointment lasts about 18 minutes. Preparing ahead of time will help you get the most out of those minutes. Make lists so you have important information readily available. This includes your current medicines, refill requests, over-the-counter products, allergies, and medical problems. You should also note any symptoms you’re experiencing. And make sure the doctor has records from other doctors and any imaging or lab test results.

  • Mistake 2: Arriving Late to Your Appointment
    It’s frustrating to show up on time just to sit and wait for the doctor. But being late yourself can be even more frustrating because offices may require you to reschedule. To avoid this, make sure you know where you’re going, where to park, and what time to arrive. If you’re a new patient, your arrival time is likely earlier than your appointment time. This allows you to complete paperwork without taking away your time with the doctor.

  • Mistake 3: Not Knowing Insurance Requirements
    When you see a new doctor, make sure they accept your insurance. You can find in-network doctors through your insurance company’s website. Then, call the doctor’s office to verify it. If you’re seeing a specialist, find out if you need a referral. Today, many offices handle referrals electronically. Ask the office if they have the referral or if you need to bring a hard copy. And always bring your insurance card and photo ID to your appointments.

  • Mistake 4: Not Bringing a Friend or Family Member
    You probably don’t need another set of eyes and ears for standard appointments. But any time you see a doctor about a significant health concern, you should consider bringing a friend or family member. This trusted person can take notes and help you ask questions and remember what the doctor tells you. Making an audio recording of the appointment will let you review the appointment as many times as necessary.

  • Mistake 5: Stretching the Truth
    Your doctor isn’t looking for the “right” answer to health questions; he or she just needs a truthful answer. So don’t over- or underestimate your lifestyle habits, such as exercise, diet, smoking, and alcohol use. Along the same lines, be honest about your symptoms. If you have a chronic disease, use a symptom diary to help you keep track of them. You’ll be less likely to gloss over bad days or forget the really good ones.

  • Mistake 6: Avoiding Sensitive Topics
    Many people are uncomfortable sharing personal matters, even with their doctor. Talking about sex, bodily functions, alcohol use, emotional problems, memory problems, and other sensitive topics can be difficult. Remember, doctors are used to hearing about these issues. And it’s likely that your doctor can help, but you have to be open with him or her. Try rehearsing what to say or telling your doctor upfront that you’re struggling with a topic.

  • Mistake 7: Not Asking Questions
    If you have questions before your appointment, add them to the lists you make to prepare. But even if you don’t, take a pad for making notes and jotting questions as they arise. Don’t hesitate to ask about a medical term or for clarification on instructions. At the end of the appointment, repeat your understanding of your treatment or next steps back to the doctor. Then, ask if you understood correctly and if the doctor has anything to add.

  • Mistake 8: Leaving With Uncertainty
    About half of people leave the doctor’s office uncertain about what they need to do. Asking questions, taking notes, and repeating information can help. You can also ask for handouts or other written materials to review and share with family members. Or ask your doctor about websites you can use to find more information. Then, make sure you review the information. And call the office if questions come up at home.

  • Mistake 9: Not Following Up
    Your treatment plan is only effective if you follow it. Make sure you know what your next steps are and take care of them. Make a follow-up appointment before you leave the office. Schedule lab tests and imaging exams, fill new prescriptions, and go pick them up. If your pharmacy has a refill program, use it. Make sure you know when you should call the doctor and how to reach your doctor during and after business hours.

  • Mistake 10: Not Asking About a Second Opinion
    Not every doctor visit requires a second opinion. But there are times when a second opinion is useful. When you receive a serious diagnosis, are considering surgery, or have multiple treatment options, a second opinion can help. And your current doctor is the place to start. Most doctors recognize the value of a second opinion and may even be able to provide a referral. Remember, being proactive gives you more control over your care.

10 Mistakes People Make at Their Doctor Visits
  1. Can I Really Talk About That? Discussing Sensitive Subjects. National Institute on Aging. http://www.nia.nih.gov/health/publication/talking-your-doctor/can-i-really-talk-about-discussing-sen....
  2. Getting the Most Out of Your Doctor's Appointment. Center for Advancing Health. http://www.cfah.org/prepared-patient/communicate-with-your-doctors/getting-the-most-out-of-doctors-a....
  3. Getting the Most Out of Your Doctor's Visit. American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00561.
  4. How Should I Prepare? Getting Ready for an Appointment. National Institute on Aging. http://www.nia.nih.gov/health/publication/talking-your-doctor/how-should-i-prepare-getting-ready-app....
  5. How Should I Prepare for a Doctor's Appointment? Lupus Foundation of America. http://www.lupus.org/answers/entry/preparing-for-a-doctors-appointment.
  6. Second Opinions. Patient Advocate Foundation. http://www.patientadvocate.org/index.php?p=691..
  7. Use Time With Your Doctor Wisely. Arthritis Foundation. http://www.arthritistoday.org/arthritis-treatment/getting-medical-care/your-role-as-a-patient/doctor....
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Last Review Date: 2019 Feb 23
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