How to Prepare for an Appointment With a New Doctor
Navigating the medical system can be extremely time-consuming and stressful, as it often involves significant coordination and planning. It’s especially difficult when you’re struggling with the symptoms you’re seeking help for.
Eventually, I learned to keep things simple and focused to ensure each doctor visit is collaborative and productive. Following are my tips for preparing for an appointment with a new doctor.
Check if it’s necessary to be seen in person for the first consult. If the provider is out of state and you’re consulting multiple providers, a virtual visit might make the most sense. Telehealth appointments tend to be more accessible, especially if your schedule isn’t flexible. Even if your doctor is in a different area, you may be able to complete some services, such as bloodwork and imaging, locally.
Virtual consults enabled me to connect with multiple providers and weigh my options without having to travel. I mailed my medical records and spoke with the doctor on the phone, which also allowed us to connect sooner.
The first in-person visit can be a long day. Office coordinators should be able to answer specific questions about what the day will look like, if bloodwork or imaging is needed ahead of time, or how to find their department, which can be a challenge if it’s in a large hospital. They may have a patient guide to help answer common questions.
Explore any other services the clinic offers by searching its website or making a phone call. If the clinic serves a lot of out-of-state or international patients, liaisons and coordinators may be able to provide resources and help patients with multiple aspects of their care and travel.
Many larger health systems have a financial assistance department that may benefit patients depending on need and resource availability. Other coordinators may be able to help patients secure flights, lodging, and accommodations.
The staff at the doctor’s office may also be aware of tools that can make your visit less stressful, such as a map of the hospital or parking assistance.
Prepare in advance
Before an appointment, I gather my thoughts by compiling my medical history, including symptoms I’ve experienced, when they started, and any tests I’ve completed. I like writing everything down on paper, as it helps me remember, but some may find it easier to keep the information on their phone.
I spend some time thinking about questions I may have and write them down to help guide me through my appointment. It can be difficult in the moment to remember what you wanted to ask, especially if you’re nervous. I get very anxious during medical appointments, which can cause my mind to go blank.
I also make a list of things I need to do before my appointment. Staying on top of tasks can be difficult with brain fog and fatigue, so creating lists in advance helps me make sure I have everything I need for a smooth experience. It also empowers me to self-advocate.
Try to bring someone with you for support during in-person visits. They can help you feel less alone, advocate for you, and remind you of questions or concerns you wanted to bring up with the doctor. Even just having this person’s quiet presence in a new and unfamiliar doctor’s office may help ease anxiety.
On one of my busiest medical days before my pituitary surgery, my dad stayed with me and kept me upbeat through the multiple scans, blood tests, and consults. He distracted me when I was feeling nervous or fatigued.
If you’re unable to bring a visitor, ask the doctor for permission to record parts of the visit so you can listen later on. Office staff should be able to answer questions about recording before the appointment. If recording isn’t an option, let the doctor know that you’ll be taking notes.
Take time to decompress after the visit. Appointments with new doctors at unfamiliar locations can be stressful. After the visit, it may be helpful to talk with your support person about how the appointment went and how you’re feeling as a way to process everything.
I like to decompress by doing something nice for myself that allows for a mental break. Unwinding and relaxing my mind and body prepare me to process next steps. I’ve found it beneficial to take a break and revisit the information I gathered during the appointment at a later time. By that point, I may have additional clarity about how to move forward.
Although appointments with new doctors can be intimidating, they can also offer hope and new beginnings. Being prepared and informed have helped me combat the uncertainty and stress I feel.
How do you prepare for an appointment with a new doctor? Please share in the comments below.
Note: Cushing’s Disease News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Cushing’s Disease News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Cushing’s.