How to Prepare for a Doctor's Appointment

The New York Times published a A Doctor's Guide to a Good Appointment, which has some great advice for how to find a doctor and what to do before, during, and after an appointment. When you have a chronic illness, you quickly get used to having a lot of doctor's appointments, and I agree with a lot of the tips in this article.

A few things from the article stood out to me:

  • Size/type of practice. My gastroenterologist is located at a teaching hospital, which means that I frequently see a resident in addition to my doctor, and sometimes an intern or medical student is present at the appointment. I like knowing that my doctor is keeping up with the latest research and developments in IBD as someone who is teaching other doctors. I also don't mind having extra people at my appointment, and sometimes it gives me additional opportunities to get questions answered. However, I know some people who have gone to the same doctor at the same hospital and have been turned off by the clinical setting. I can see how a smaller practice could feel more welcoming and intimate. Neither is necessarily better or worse; it really comes down to personal preference, and as the author says, who your individual doctor is.
  • How much things cost. It's reassuring (and also frustrating) to have a doctor confirm how difficult it can be to find out how much something costs and whether a particular procedure or medication is covered by insurance. I remember having an impossible time finding out how much a Remicade infusion would cost me when I started Remicade. I didn't find out until I actually got the bill (and then I had to wait and see how much RemiStart, a patient assistance program through the drug company, would cover). It made an already stressful time even more stressful. The author suggests calling your insurance company, but I've found that often leads to more frustration than answers.
  • Prepare for the appointment. I like to write down all of my questions ahead of time, and then think about which really need to be answered at the appointment, and which would be nice to have answered if there's time but aren't urgent. The article suggests picking out your two or three most important issues and focusing on those.
  • Don't leave without knowing the plan. It is much easier to make sure you understand what you need to do next while you are there than to get home and realize you're completely confused about the next steps.

What about you? Do you have any advice you'd add to this guide?