Your first visit to the doctor

Your first visit to the doctor

So, it’s time to see the doctor?

It really doesn’t matter what situation or what type of doctor you have to see, let’s face it- having to see a new doctor is a hassle. Whether your family physician has referred you to a specialist, you’re taking your child to a new pediatrician, or visiting an orthopedic surgeon for that bad knee you’ve been ignoring for the past year, it’s still unfamiliar territory.

So how can you ensure your visit to this new doctor is productive? The simple answer: Be prepared.

1. Are they in your insurance plan?

Before you even step through the door, you should know the answer to this question. Nobody wants to get stuck with an immense “out of network” bill if they can avoid it. The same advice applies to referrals.

Most doctors aren’t considering what your insurance plan is and who the in-network physicians are when they make a recommendation for your care. Their job is to refer best doctor to solve your problem. So, confirm that the new office accepts your plan and inquire about costs. Every self-respecting, well-functioning office should be able to give you a definitive answer.

If you’re forced to be in the position to see an out-of-network doctor; you should still expect a straightforward answer about costs before you walk in the door.

2. Get your story straight

For me, one of the most annoying things about seeing a new doctor is the repetitiveness – repeat questions, repeat paperwork, etc. Can’t they all just look integrate and stop asking me what I’m allergic to?

Understand that as medical professionals, we’re required to obtain a patient history from every new patient. It’s not just a preference, it’s policy and a critical part of our jobs.

The easiest way to manage your information and have a productive visit is to bring a copy of your medical records.  Most of the time all it takes is to ask your current or previous primary care provider for a printed or electronic copy.

If you’re not able to obtain those records in time, spend some timing thinking through key information on the way to your appointment.  What are your medical problems? What surgeries have you endured? What are your allergies? What are your medications? Don’t forget labs results, films, or records of previous surgeries and hospital stays.  Even better, setup a personal health record, so you’ll always have this information handy.

Having this information easily available streamline your office visit significantly. More importantly, it can ensure that your doctor receives all the information critical to the success of your visit.

3. Ask questions and, if necessary, make a checklist.

Now this may seem obvious, but don’t be afraid to ask your doctor questions. You are there with a problem that needs to be solved. You may not have a good understanding about what is going on, but organizing your questions before your office visit can help you leave with a better one. Sorting out your thoughts and concerns may even calm your nerves.

If necessary, make a list. Many of these questions will probably be answered during your visit, but don’t be shy about going through your list of questions with the doctor. You will get answers and maybe feel like you have a better handle on your situation.

But be reasonable. You don’t want your list to unravel like Fletch’s wallet or anything, and understand that your doctor may not be able to answer all of your questions to your satisfaction at that single visit.

4. Leave with a plan.

Let me put this simply: you should never leave your doctor’s office without understanding what the plan is. You’ve come to see your doctor for a reason, and you should leave with some sort of game plan as to how to resolve your problem.  That way, as things progress, you can track what is going on and have a way to measure your progress towards your goal of getting better.

Even though new doctor visits can seem daunting, an ounce of preparation can help them go a bit more smoothly.


Dr. Derek Lou of Lou Plastic Surgery is board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery.  He completed his undergraduate with a degree in Biology from Harvard University in 1995 and graduated medical school at UT Southwestern in 1999. He continued his medical training at Indiana University, where he completed a general surgery residency and a plastic surgery fellowship in 2007. He has extensive training in reconstructive surgery, as well as cosmetic surgeries. His office is conveniently located in the Memorial City area near Houston, Texas.

As of July 31, 2013, this service provider was highly rated on Angie's List. Ratings are subject to change based on consumer feedback, so check Angie's List for the most up-to-date reviews. The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect those of Angie's List.

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