Preparing for Your Next Appointment: 15 Must Ask Questions [Part 1]

May 15, 2018

Illustration of a man and his doctor at the doctor's office.

By: The My Medicare Matters Team

This article is the first installment in our “Conversations with Your Doctor” series, which covers some of the important discussions you should have with your doctor as you age. To stay up-to-date on the latest blog posts, subscribe to our mailing list

Doctors are often seen as superheroes, and although they don’t wear capes, they do save lives. However, unlike their superhero counterparts, doctors aren’t always able to detect danger just by sensing it. As patients, our job is to be proactive with our health care and communicate with providers about issues that we may be experiencing. It may not always be apparent what we should discuss with our doctors but a good rule of thumb is “if you’re concerned about it, mention it.” There are no health issues too small for your doctor to address.

Below are a few tips to help prepare for the next doctor’s appointment and questions to ask when you arrive.

Before the appointment

  • Create and prioritize your list of health concerns and include any health or personal changes you have experienced since your last visit.
  • Gather your insurance cards, medical history, medications, and doctor’s contact information.
  • Make sure you have your glasses, hearing aid, or other devices. You may also want to bring a snack if you have to fast for the appointment. You may also want to bring a pen and paper to take notes during the appointment.
  • Plan how you will arrive at your appointment. Will you need a ride or will someone by taking you? There are transportation services that offer free or reduced rides to older adults.
  • Would you like for friend or family member to join you for the appointment? They can help you remember the doctor’s directions after the appointment or just provide emotional support.
  • If you need an interpreter ask your doctor when you arrive or beforehand.

At the Appointment

  • If you are having symptoms, share them with your doctor. What are they? When did they start? How often do they occur? What triggers them?
  • Go over any medications you may be taking. Will you need to take any new medications? Why is it being prescribed? When, how often and how long does it need to be taken? Are there any side effects or special instructions?
  • Will your new medications have any side effects? How will it interact with food, alcohol, or any of your current medications?
  • Find out if you need to take any medical tests. What are the tests for? What do I need to do to prepare for the test? If there is blood work and will I need to fast 12 hours beforehand? When will the results come back and how will I receive them?
  • If you have been diagnosed with a health condition get as much information as you need. What may have caused the condition? How long will it last? What are treatment and management options? How will it affect you?
  • Voice any other health concerns you may be experiencing. Have you had trouble sleeping? Have you been feeling isolated or depressed lately?

After the Appointment

  • Make sure you schedule any follow-up appointments that are needed either for tests or specialists. Find out if you will need a referral for the visit and who is responsible for scheduling the appointment.
  • Get a printout of instructions from your doctor, brochures, and educational materials. Any additional reading material is helpful especially if you have been diagnosed with a new health condition.
  • Find out when you need to return and schedule the appointment.

This list is not all encompassing, but it does include some of the most important information you need to remain healthy for years to come. Make sure you share your concerns, ask questions you think are important and seek clarification from your health care professional. Discussing the non-medical parts of your life is also important, as it can impact the decisions made about your health care, which will be discussed more in our next series.

For now, making sure you are enrolled in a Medicare plan that covers the doctor visits and services you need is what’s most important. Take our 1-minute Medicare Questionnaire, for free advice from a licensed benefits advisor on selecting a plan that covers your Medical needs.