Maximizing Your Time with Your Doctor

How to get the most out of your appointments with healthcare providers

Time with your doctor can be limited these days. Most primary care physicians see more than a dozen patients a day and spend on average 25 minutes or less with a patient during a typical office visit. But with some preparation and planning, you can maximize time with your healthcare provider and get more out of your appointment. 

  • Share medical records and test results before your visit: By making sure your doctor has your previous diagnostic work prior to your visit, your healthcare provider has the opportunity to gain important background information about your medical situation before seeing you in person.


  • Get to your appointment early, but be prepared to wait: Arriving about 15 to 20 minutes before your appointment will give you adequate time to fill out paperwork, go to the bathroom and take care of other check-in items. By getting to the appointment early, you ensure your actual appointment time with your healthcare provider is not taken up with these other tasks. Even if you arrive early, you may still have to wait to see your doctor, so allot yourself plenty of time for the appointment.


  • Don’t go alone: Having a friend, loved one or hired advocate with you during an office visit gives you another set of eyes and ears. Ask your companion to take notes or consider asking your health care provider if he or she is OK with you making an audio recording of the visit for your future reference. Your appointment buddy can be a good sounding board and also may be able to offer insight to the doctor about any health issues you are having.


  • Take a list of your medicines and supplementsRather than relying on memory, take a list of your prescription and over-the-counter medications, supplements, vitamins, herbs, nutraceuticals and their dosages. Include how frequently you take them. Bring them in their prescription bottles or store packaging if that’s easier for you. By accurately sharing with your medical provider what medications and supplements you are taking, how much and how frequently you are taking them, you lessen the chances of negative drug interactions.


  • Summarize your medical historyHave in hand a summary of your allergies, surgeries, vaccinations, family medical history and diagnosed conditions.


  • Be specific and bring a written list of your medical concernsBefore your visit, list your health concerns, questions and symptoms and prioritize them in order of their importance to you. Invite input from your loved ones. Take three copies to your appointment – one for you, one for your physician and one for your health advocate.


  • Clarify your doctor’s recommendations: Ask questions, repeat back what your doctor says and ask for written details about your treatment plan. Find out if there are warning signs you need to watch for with your condition and possible medication side effects and interactions. Clarify next steps about your treatment and find out the best way to reach your physician before, during and after regular office hours in case you have questions or concerns.
  • Stay positive, follow your healthcare plan and pay attention to your body: Having a good attitude about your well-being, your healthcare providers and your doctor’s visits helps support your health and wellness. Follow your treatment plan to maximize results. Don’t wait to report changes in your condition with your provider.Instead of seeing medical appointments as burdensome, embrace the attitude that you are part of a healthcare team that is helping you age well and stay healthy.