ask your doctor

How to get the most out of your next doctor’s visit

Whether you’re going to the doctor’s office for an annual checkup or for a specific condition, there’s a lot to cover in a short amount of time; and, it’s common to forget to ask a question, raise a concern or get further information about something important.

Healthcare providers do everything possible to ensure that patients have positive experiences, but there are also some things that patients can do to make sure they get the most out of every appointment.

Know your goals.

Before your appointment, think about what you want to know by the end of it. If it’s an annual checkup, what were your health concerns over the previous year? Are you experiencing new symptoms that you need to talk about? Do you want to improve something about your health, such as diet or exercise? Is there a big life event coming up soon?

If your appointment is for a chronic condition, are you happy with your current treatment plan? Do you want to explore changes to your treatment? Do you have questions that haven’t been answered? Do you want to talk about side effects that you may be experiencing?

“Knowing exactly what you want to get out of your appointment is one of the best things you can do to prepare for your visit,” said Suzanne Scott, MD, a family medicine physician at Penn Highlands Family Medicine in Brockway. “By telling your provider your goals for that appointment, you help ensure that all of your concerns are addressed before you leave.”

Write it down.

Once you’ve thought about your goals and concerns, make a list. It can be easy to forget to bring something up once you actually sit down with your healthcare provider. A list, whether it’s on paper or on your phone, will help you remember what you want to talk about.

After you make a list, pick the three most important things and put them at the top. There may simply not be enough time during one appointment to address everything, so you’ll want to bring up the most important topics first. If there’s still time after addressing the most important issues, you can move down your list to the next concern.

Focus on communication.

At the beginning of your appointment, tell your provider the issues you want to address, and then listen to the issues they want to address. Your provider may want to discuss something that you haven’t thought of, and open communication is critical to making sure everyone’s concerns are covered.

If time is running out and you haven’t addressed one of your most important concerns, be sure to bring it up again. If you haven’t received an answer to a question, if you don’t clearly understand something or if you don’t have a clear plan of action, bring those up too. Use your paper list or your phone to take notes so that you can review everything when you get home. You can even use your phone to record your conversation so that you don’t miss anything.

“The best healthcare is the result of clear communication,” said Dr. Scott. “There are no stupid questions, especially at the doctor’s office. That’s what we’re here for.”

Penn Highlands Healthcare offers comprehensive family medicine at locations throughout the region. Many family medicine providers are accepting new patients so that you can begin the journey of developing a relationship focused on you and your health. For more information or to find a provider near you, visit