Going to a new doctor? Here’s how to get the most out of your appointment


If you are planning to see a new primary care physician, it’s important to be prepared. To get the most out of your appointment, consider bringing the following:

• Driver’s license or photo ID.  This will be requested upon registration.

• Insurance card(s), including your Medicare card if you are a Medicare beneficiary.

• A medical history card, including information on drug allergies, physicians you see and any surgical history.

• A ziplock bag holding all the medications you take, including prescriptions and over-the-counter medicines, supplements, vitamins and herbal remedies. Bringing them with you is often best, but you can bring a list of the medications if you prefer. Be candid about your compliance – are you taking the medications as prescribed?

• A list of alternative therapies you may be receiving, such as acupuncture or care from a chiropractor or naturopaths.

• A list of current medical problems/concerns/questions.  Give some thought to questions you want to ask. Also, if possible, bring a journal of your symptoms. Are you experiencing a new symptom? When does it surface, how does it feel? This information will be very helpful to your physician.  

• A notebook and pen, or a cellphone where you can write notes. It is best practice to verbally recap your understanding of the physician’s concerns/recommendations.

• A trusted family member or friend to be an extra pair of ears to hear any diagnosis, testing and/or treatment recommendations. They can be present during the exam if you want. Following that portion of the visit, you may invite them to listen to the physician’s discussion with you. Their advocacy can be helpful, particularly when you are hearing about health issues for the first time.

• A copy of your durable power of attorney for health care documents – many medical offices request that a copy be kept with your records.

• A healthy snack – unless you are instructed not to eat or drink in advance – because wait times can be lengthy.

As a new patient, you are typically asked to complete a patient health history and authorization form at the time of your visit. Rather than completing them in the waiting room, you can ask the office to send or email the forms to you in advance so you can complete them from home at your leisure. Some offices have these forms available to download from their websites.

After your exam, it is essential to request a visit summary and any follow-up instructions. If a caregiver will be accompanying you to a subsequent visit, it is wise to request a second appointment card for their records.

Self-care is critically important. We encourage you to be proactive by taking these steps in advance of your visit to maximize your health.

ERIN MINIOR of Jewish Family Service of Rhode Island and SUSAN BAZAR of the Jewish Seniors Agency respond to one or two questions relevant to social and senior services each month. Submit questions via email to sbazar@jsari.org.