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Going to see a doctor

By AJ Murphy

Get the most out of your doctor’s appointment

Seeing your primary care physician (PCP) regularly is a great way to stay healthy. You should be ready to tell your doctor as much as you can about what’s bothering you. The more your PCP knows, the more they’ll be able to help you. Be ready to ask good questions and take notes while you’re there. If you need it, your care manager can also help schedule an appointment with your PCP.

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How do I get ready for my doctor’s appointment?

It’s good to have a plan before you go to your appointment. Here are some ways you can get ready before you go.

Before you see your doctor:


  • Write down your questions and bring them with you.
  • Ask a friend or family member to go with you to help take notes and remember what the doctor says.
  • Make a list of your symptoms.
  • Make a list of all your medications — prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs that don’t need prescriptions, vitamins, herbal remedies or supplements.
  • List any other doctors you are seeing.
  • Write down the doctor’s name and phone number.
  • Write down if you’ve gone to the emergency room. When did you go? What was the reason?
  • Write down if you’ve seen a specialist. When did you go? What was the reason?
  • Take your health plan member ID card and a picture ID with you. You may also need your Medicaid ID card, if required by your plan.

While you’re at the doctor’s office:


  • Tell your doctor your most important problems first.
  • Tell the doctor how you feel and if your symptoms have changed recently.
  • Answer all of your doctor’s questions, even if you feel embarrassed. You and your doctor are on the same team.
  • Ask your doctor or nurse to repeat anything that you don’t understand.
  • Schedule a follow-up appointment if necessary.

Ask your doctor questions like:


  • What’s my problem?
  • What do I do next?
  • Do I need tests? What kind?
  • How do I prepare for them?
  • Do I need treatment?
  • Why do I need it?
  • Are there side effects?
  • Are there different treatments?

How do I schedule or cancel my appointment?

You should call your provider early in the day to make an appointment. Let the office know if you need any special help. If you’re a new patient, you should go about 30 minutes early. That will give your doctor enough time to get your information ready. If you need to change your appointment, call your provider’s office 24 hours before your appointment. This gives the office staff enough time to reschedule you. And they can take care of other patients.

About the author

AJ Murphy is an evocative young writer who grew up in Boston's Charlestown neighborhood. AJ began his writing career at Alaska Ice Rinks Inc. in Anchorage, AK, where he also drove a Zamboni and took care of outdoor hockey rinks.

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