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Preparing for a Doctor’s Visit

Have you ever gone to the doctor for what you thought wasn’t a big deal (you’ve been this way for a long time, right?) And then she gives you a devastating diagnosis?

This happened to me two weeks ago. I had been waiting for about 4 months to see my specialist, and I was ready! (By the way, this was NOT for my asthma diagnosis… it was a different condition). My specialist had sent all the paperwork for me to fill out before the appointment. She asked for medical records from my current doctor, so I had those ready too. I also asked my husband to go with me and take notes.

Receiving my diagnosis

And then the exam started. Partway through the exam, she gave me a diagnosis that I DID NOT see coming. I had a “deer in the headlight” look and didn’t hear anything she said after the devastating diagnosis. I could see her lips moving, but all I could hear was “blah, blah, blah.”

I looked from my specialist to my husband and could see him furiously scribbling notes for me. I am so glad that I brought someone with me to take notes; I was really in a fog.

My specialist sent me off with instructions, a prescription, and a follow-up appointment. Although I wasn’t ready for what she told me, her diagnosis was quick and accurate because I had brought my medical records and was ready for my appointment. I will be okay once I figure out my “new normal.”

If you have a doctor visit scheduled, how can you get the most out of your time? Harvard Medical School has some great tips:1

Preparing for your next doctor’s visit

Arrive early

I had waited 4 months for my appointment, and I didn’t want to miss it! So I left my house early in case rush hour traffic was bad. I planned extra time to also find the office, stop at the bathroom, and get a drink before my appointment.

Have someone go with you

If it’s just an annual check-up, I’ll go by myself. If I’m worried about something, I will ask my husband to go with me and take notes. I also go with my elderly neighbor to her doctor, because she doesn’t always catch everything the doctor says – even with her hearing aids! So I take notes for her.

Write down a list of questions

If I don’t write it down, my mind goes blank when the doctor walks in. If you have several questions, have the most important questions at the top of your list.

Bring a list of medications you take

I write down the name of the drug, the strength of the medicine, and when I take it. I keep my list in the notes section on my phone so it’s always with me.

If possible, send your medical records before the visit

My current doctor and the Specialist are under different medical groups, so they can’t “share info.” So, I had to find my records and bring them with me. Most doctors like to review your medical records before they come into the exam room.

Be concise

They don’t have time to hear your life’s story, so tell them why you are there and what your symptoms are.

Tell the whole truth, and nothing but the truth

Your doctor can’t treat you if you don’t tell him or her everything. People are embarrassed to talk about depression, drug use, drinking, urinary problems, etc. But your doctor is there to help you, so let them know!

How do you prepare for a doctor visit?

I hope these ideas help you on your next doctor’s visit. If you have some great ideas, leave them in the comment section below!

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. Harvard Health Publishing. In sider tips to maximize your doctor visit. Accessed September 2019.


  • KaraOhki
    3 months ago

    The diagnosis I was unprepared for came at my regular visit to my endocrinologist (I have had Type 2 diabetes for the past 25 years). It totally floored me when I was told I had stage four kidney disease. (I was and still am asymptomatic). So now I’m seeing a nephrologist.

    For any visit, I come with my list of meds, which is always on my iPad. I just hand it to the nurse and let her compare it to her list. I also bring questions in written form, and my secret weapon – my younger brother, who always asks questions and seeks more information if I’m looking confused.

  • Leon Lebowitz, RRT moderator
    3 months ago

    Hi KaraOhki, and thanks for joining in this conversation. We appreciate you sharing what works for you with the community. Warmly, Leon (site moderator)

  • Shellzoo
    4 months ago

    I was actually shocked by my asthma doctor at an appointment shortly after being diagnosed. I expected since I felt fine and was breathing well to have my steroid inhaler dose reduced only to have to continue using it at the highest dose and start another inhaler then hear the words “chronic” related to the inflammation in my airway and told my spirometry was only 74% and should be normal with talk about keeping it from getting as low as 40-60%. I understood enough to know the asthma was not going away and was not going to be an easy fix.
    Since then I write all my questions down and I ask my questions without fear of upsetting my doctor. It is perfectly fine to be concerned. Since then I have improved and with the new med am breathing better. My spirometry is much better too. Working with my doctor, asking questions and also being open to new treatments really helps.

  • Andrea M Jensen, CHES (R), AE-C author
    3 months ago

    I’m so glad! Doctors can be your best ally. Especially when you understand what they are saying and know you are on the same page.
    Keep up the good work!
    Andrea, author

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