Patient Blog

How To Prepare for Your Next Doctor’s Appointment

Healthcare professional showing female patient her chart in hospital waiting room wearing masks

Feeling overwhelmed after putting off a doctor’s visit for two-plus years? You’re not alone. Here are some tips on how you can show up prepared, with all your health info, and have a smooth, problem-free doctor’s appointment.

Visiting the doctor, even for a routine checkup, can be a stressful experience, particularly in the middle of a pandemic that just won’t go away. 

A recent survey found that the spread of COVID-19 prevented nearly 40 percent of Canadians from accessing regular appointments, treatments or scheduled procedures. Almost one in four were unable to make a needed visit to their family doctor and three-quarters said they felt the pandemic negatively impacted their health.

With hospitals and clinics forced to prioritize urgent medical care, many people are catching up with a long overdue doctor’s appointment and probably feel a little anxious about the impending experience. It’s only natural to fear the unknown but with knowledge comes power and a sense of serenity that you’re doing everything you can to take care of yourself. 

Here are a few timely tips to help you get the most out of your next doctor’s appointment.

Come prepared

Bring a list of all the prescription drugs (and doses) you are currently taking as well as any over-the-counter medications, vitamins or herbal supplements that may be part of your routine. Make sure you have proof of insurance — and that it is accepted — and bring the names and phone numbers of any other doctors or specialists you have recently visited. If the clinic gives you the option of providing documents and records beforehand, use a web- or mobile-based tool, such as PocketHealth, a website that allows you to securely and seamlessly share this information with others from the comfort of your couch. 

Bring questions

Make a list of topics and concerns you want to talk to the doctor about, including any symptoms you may be experiencing or anything else you want to ask. Having an agenda will help you get the most out of your appointment, whether you’re looking for a diagnosis, a new treatment or just some advice. Some of the questions may be about the diagnosis itself, the prognosis and available treatment options and their success rates. Be sure to write these concerns down in order of importance so that time constraints won’t deprive you from discussing the issues that are most important to you.

Ask for clarification

If you don’t understand something the doctor tells you, don’t be afraid to ask for an explanation. By nature, medicine is complex and it may feel like the doctor is presenting too much information too quickly, so don’t be shy about seeking clarity. There’s nothing wrong with asking for something to be presented in a different way to help it make more sense. Repeating this information back to your doctor will help you absorb it and leave the office feeling confident that your concerns were heard and addressed.

Bring a companion

Having a friend or family member by your side is a great way to ensure you get to and from the appointment safely and remember to discuss everything important to you. If you’re not allowed or unable to bring a companion, ask if you can call or facetime someone who can ask questions, take notes, offer support, vouch for your symptoms and advocate on your behalf.

Take notes

Write down any advice your doctor gives you during the appointment (or immediately afterward) to ensure you don’t forget anything important. You may feel like you fully understood what was said but the passage of time has a way of making the finer details a little fuzzy. Having these notes to refer to will help you navigate future appointments. 

Ask for access to your medical records

You may be required to submit your request in writing and wait a month or two, but getting a copy of your health data will help you become a more engaged patient with a better understanding of your medical issues. Remember, patients have the right to ask for their health records at any time and clinics are obligated to share them with you. For easy access to your imaging records, simply go to pocket.health to retrieve your scans and reports and instantly send them to your doctor and other members of your care team.

After your appointment, make sure to pick up any prescriptions the doctor prescribed and follow up if you have any concerns about your treatment. If you know you’ll need to see the doctor again, try to schedule your next appointment as soon as possible. Don’t be afraid to ask questions – your health is too important to take a backseat!

Be ready and prepared for your next doctor’s appointment by having 24/7 access to your medical images, records and reports here