How to Prepare for a Doctor's Appointment

(Image credit: Doctor's visit via Shutterstock)

"The Healthy Geezer" answers questions about health and aging in his weekly column.

Question: I'm going to the doctor and I don't want to forget to ask him important questions. Any suggestions on how to prepare for this visit?

Answer: Whether you're talking to a family physician, a specialist or pharmacist, you need to know the right questions. My research turned up hundreds of possible questions.  I narrowed the list down to the ones I considered to be the most significant. You can pick out the ones that apply to you. Here goes:

Family physician

  • What is the outlook for my condition?
  • Could relatives get this?
  • What changes will I need to make?
  • What are my treatment options?
  • What are the benefits and risks associated with my treatment options?
  • What are the expected results?
  • Are there any side effects and what can be done about them?
  • What organizations and resources do you recommend for support and information?
  • Which hospital has the best care for my condition?


  • What are the benefits and risks of having this test?
  • How is the test done?
  • Is this test the only way to find out that information?
  • What do I need to do to prepare for the test?
  • When will I get the results?
  • What's the next step after the test?
  • Do I need surgery?
  • What are the benefits and risks of having this surgery?
  • Is there some other way to treat my condition?
  • What will happen if I don't have this surgery?
  • Have you done this surgery before?
  • How successful is this surgery?
  • Which hospital is best for this surgery?
  • How long will I be in the hospital?
  • How long is the recovery?
  • Where can I get a second opinion?


  • What are the side effects of this medicine?
  • When should I report a side effect to my doctor?
  • Can I take a generic version?
  • What is the primary use for this medicine?
  • When should I take my medicine?
  • How long do I need to take the medicine?
  • When will the medicine start working?
  • Can I stop taking my medicine if I feel better?
  • Do I need to avoid any food, drinks, or activities?
  • Does this medicine conflict with other drugs I'm taking?
  • Which over-the-counter supplements can I take with this prescription?
  • Are there any tests I need to take while I'm on this medicine?

In addition to being armed with questions, you should be ready with answers for a visit to any healthcare professional. Here's a checklist of items you should take with you to your visit.

  • A description of any symptoms you are experiencing.
  • A list of all the medications and supplements you take. These include both prescription and over-the-counter medicines. Some doctors ask you to bring all your medicines with you to your first visit.
  • Medical records
  • Insurance cards, names and phone numbers of your other doctors, and the phone number of the pharmacy you use.
  • A list assistive devices you use such as canes, walkers, scooters, glasses, hearing aids, reachers, grab bars, and stair lifts.
  • Lifestyle habits. Your diet. How do you sleep? Do you smoke or drink alcohol. Activities such as dancing and sports.
  • Events in your life that may be affecting your health. These include moving, changing jobs, a divorce, a death in the family.

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All rights reserved © 2012 by Fred Cicetti

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Fred Cicetti is a contributing writer for Live Science who specializes in health. He has been writing professionally since 1963. Before he began freelancing, he was a reporter, rewriteman and columnist for three daily newspapers in New Jersey: The Newark News, Newark Star-Ledger and Morristown Record. He has written two published novels:" Saltwater Taffy—A Summer at the Jersey Shore," and "Local Angles—Big News in Small Towns."