How to prepare for a doctor visit

WASHINGTON — If you need to see a doctor, how you prepare and communicate with your health care provider can influence the quality of care you receive, a local consumers’ group said.

Being well prepared for a doctor’s appointment includes knowing what you want to know, according to Washington Consumers’ Checkbook.

Write down questions and information before you go

“That way, you won’t forget to ask something. That way, if you feel like you’re being rushed or if you go off on a different tangent that you at least get back to the questions you wanted to ask to begin with,” said Kevin Brasler, executive editor at

Also, make a list of your symptoms and treatments you’ve tried previously.

Don’t go to an appointment empty-handed

Here are some techniques to make sure you don’t miss anything:

  • Bring something to write down notes of what’s being said.
  • If it’s an important appointment, bring a friend or relative to absorb and remember what’s said.
  • Take all supplements and medications with you.

“That way, you won’t forget one that you’re taking, and there won’t be any questions about dosage or anything like that,” Brasler said.

Find out how to get test results

“One frustration a lot of patients have about doctors is they order tests, and then it’s hard to get back in touch with the doctor,” Brasler said. “What were the results of my test?”

Brasler said there currently is a movement to push doctors to make test results available to patients online.

“Ask if they have that, or ask them, ‘How can I get results to tests?’ This is an important consideration when choosing a doctor these days,” Brasler said.

Checkbook has patient ratings of primary care doctors in the D.C. area. There are also results of a survey of nearly every actively practicing doctor in the area who were asked that if they or a family member needed care who they would recommend.

Through a special arrangement with the nonprofit Washington Consumers’ Checkbook group, readers can access those survey results for a limited time.

Consumers’ Checkbook/Center for the Study of Services is an independent nonprofit consumer organization founded in 1974. It has, for more than 40 years, been an innovator in providing information to help consumers make smarter choices.

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