Optimizing Your Medical Appointment

Healthy people should have a medical checkup once a year. How can you sum up everything that’s happened to you over the past 12 months in the limited time you have in the clinic?

Jamie Cavanaugh, PharmD, assistant medical director at UNC Internal Medicine Clinic, says a step-by-step approach to planning for your visit can help maximize your time.

Follow these steps so you don’t find yourself on the way home from the clinic kicking yourself over all the things you meant to ask.

Prep for the checkup as soon as you hang up or book online.

You made an appointment for a reason and know what you want to discuss with your provider. Write those questions and concerns down to begin preparing for your appointment. Continue to add to that list until your appointment.

Cavanaugh says that once patients get in the room, they often get nervous or feel pressed for time and forget some of the things they want to ask. She suggests preparing this list of questions and bringing it with you to your appointment.

If you scheduled online, chances are you’re already an experienced My UNC Chart user. If you don’t have My UNC Chart, now would be a great time to sign up. In addition to requesting appointments, you may receive requests to review your medical history or complete questionnaires before your visit. Getting this done ahead of time can help streamline your experience with your provider.

Make final preparations a few days before your appointment.

Make sure you know how you will get to your appointment. Make arrangements for transportation, if needed.

Cavanaugh also suggests patients think about bringing a trusted friend or family member to the appointment. Having someone else in the room can help you remember the questions you wanted to ask, and an extra set of ears can help you remember everything the provider is telling you.

Cavanaugh also says that if you do any testing at home—blood pressure, blood sugar, etc.—keep a log of those results for the week before your visit and bring it with you.

Finally, get all of your medications together. Cavanaugh suggests putting all of your medication bottles into a bag and bringing them with you to your appointment.

Start the appointment off right.

As your appointment begins, Cavanaugh suggests bringing out your list of questions and the medications. Your nurse may offer to take your list of questions and show them to your provider, so he or she can be prepared when entering the exam room.

Cavanaugh says providers often have a plan for what they would like to accomplish during a visit, but it might not match with the patient’s goals. She encourages you to speak up and make sure to explain your concerns and what you would like to focus on during your appointment. The first few minutes of the visit, she says, should serve as a chance to set goals for the visit.

Summarize your visit before you leave.

Cavanaugh says providers are taught to ask their patients to repeat back any instructions they have been given. She says it is a good practice for patients to remember, whether they are specifically asked or not. Before you leave the room, she says, make sure all of your questions have been answered, and repeat back any instructions you have been given to make sure you are on the same page. If you have brought someone with you to the appointment, ask him or her to help by taking notes.

Again, before you leave, make sure you are signed up for My UNC Chart. Cavanaugh says many providers use My UNC Chart to communicate with patients following their visits. My UNC Chart is a quick, secure, and convenient way for your provider to share test results with you and for you to ask questions about your care.

If you have not activated your My UNC Chart account, staff at the clinic can help you to sign up before you leave.

Finally, before you leave, ask when you should make another appointment.

After you leave, fill any prescriptions.

After your visit, stop at the pharmacy to fill or pick up any prescriptions. If you cannot afford your medications, Cavanaugh says call your provider, who may be able to work with you to find a generic drug or a similar medication covered by your insurance.

Also, if you feel that you cannot follow through on any part of the care plan your provider recommended, let your provider know as soon as possible. Cavanaugh says she would much rather make adjustments now than see you at your next visit and learn you have not made any progress toward your health goals.

 If you don’t have a provider, find one near you.