How to Get More out of an Appointment with Your Doctor

How to Get More out of an Appointment with Your Doctor

It can seem like doctor’s appointments speed by. One minute you’re waiting. The next thing you know, the busy doctor has come and gone and you remember that other thing you meant to ask. The best way to get more out of your health care dollar is to get more out of an appointment with your doctor, even if it’s just a brief meeting.

That is easy to do. It requires three things:

  • Preparing before you go
  • Knowing what you want to talk about while you are there
  • Making sure you understand exactly how to follow up after

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality leaving site icon says that people who ask questions and take an active role in their health are happier with their care. They also see more improvement in their health than patients who do not take ownership of their health. Here are the steps to take:

Before the Doctor’s Appointment

  • Write down any questions or concerns. Do you have a health problem? Do you want to ask about a medical test? Would you like to explore a new treatment option? Write it down so you don’t forget to ask.  
  • Make a list all of the medications you take. Include the dose and frequency. Don’t forget to include over-the-counter drugs, as well as herbs, supplements, and vitamins. The doctor needs to know because any drug—even over the counter and herbal remedies--can interact with other prescription drugs in a harmful way.
  • Ask a family member or friend to come along with you. It can help to have another person listen to the doctor’s explanation, ask questions, take notes, and share information.
  • Check to make sure your doctor is in network . It’s easy to do with our Provider Finder, and could save you lots of money in the future!
  • If you have an HMO, see your Primary Care Physician (PCP)  first for any non-emergency care. If you need to see a specialist, your PCP can refer you.  Even with a referral, make sure the specialist is in-network by using Provider Finder or calling the number on your card.

During the Doctor’s Appointment

  • Be honest. Whether you’re having problems with your medications or are experiencing embarrassing health problems, this is your time to be forthright. Your doctor can help the most when he or she has all of the information about you.
  • If your doctor prescribes a new medication or changes the dose on one you’re already taking, make sure you understand why.
  • If you don’t understand something, ask questions. You should also ask for any brochures, videos, or websites that are relevant to the issues you’re discussing.
  • Before you leave the doctor’s office, make sure you know what your next steps are. Schedule a follow-up visit if necessary.

After the Doctor’s Appointment
Follow your doctor’s instructions. Call:

  • If your symptoms get worse or you have side effects from your medications.
  • To get the results of tests or clarify test results you don’t understand.
  • If you see something on your Explanation of Benefits (EOB)  that doesn’t seem right. Remember: your EOB is not a bill, it just shows what was covered by your plan. You will receive a bill directly from your doctor if you owe anything after insurance has paid. To see all your EOBs for the last 18 months, visit the Claims Center in Blue Access for Members (BAM).

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If you have any questions, we can help: call the number on the back of your Membership ID card.

Originally published January 27, 2015; Revised 2018