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How to Get Ready for Your Primary Care Doctor Exam

Posted by Johnson Memorial Health on May 17, 2016

The success of your primary care doctor appointment depends on the homework you complete before your examination.

Blood tests and diagnostic imaging results tell a lot about your physical well-being. But information is extremely important when determining the appropriate treatment of what ails you.


Whether you are getting an annual physical or going to a walk-in clinic for a nasty cough, here are some tips that will greatly assist your primary care provider during your appointment.

Make a list of your symptoms

Write down everything that bothers you - even if you don't believe the sore back has anything to do with your head congestion. Tell the primary care provider if a symptom is more recent than others. Provide degrees (on a scale of 1 to 10) of pain or discomfort. Your health care professional has been highly trained to connect the dots.

Create a timetable of your symptoms

Your primary care team will want to know when you began feeling ill or what happened before your body started to ache. The primary care provider will want to know the chronological order of your symptoms and if certain activities on those times and dates triggered them.

Explain the impact on your life

There's an old joke that starts with a patient saying: "Doc, it hurts when I do this." It concludes with the doctor replying: "Then don't do that." In reality, doctors want to know what triggers the symptom and how the pain or condition impedes your daily routine.

Provide a list of your medicines, supplements

While modern computer technology provides easier access to patient records, you should still bring a comprehensive list of prescriptions, over-the-counter drugs, vitamins and other supplements to your appointment. Make certain this list includes dosage and whether or not you have taken any of them before coming to the office. Some patients put all of their medicines in a bag and take it with them.

Provide your vital information

Prepare a list of your other doctors and their contact information. Make certain to have your insurance card. Bring a copy of your test results from other doctors, if you have them. Don't assume your primary care doctor was sent a copy of tests done at the emergency room or walk-in clinic.

Prepare your body for examination

Drinking plenty of water helps stabilize your body's chemistry. Hydrating with eight glasses of water the day before your appointment can help the accuracy of some tests. Also, in case you need a fasting blood test, you should not eat or drink after midnight. If you have a late afternoon appointment, you can eat a light breakfast.

Bring along a family member or friend

A doctor's visit can be unnerving. You might forget to tell the provider an important piece of information. You also might miss something the provider said. That's why an extra set of ears can be helpful. Share with your family member or friend ahead of time what you want to tell the primary care doctor or nurse. A companion also can be helpful remembering what you were told about the diagnosis. Also, that person can drive you home afterwards if the physician treated you and you should not drive for a few hours due to side effects.

Find out if and when you should return for another visit and clarify any next steps. Ask your provider to write down your at-home care instructions. Schedule a follow-up appointment if necessary, and don't forget to do your homework again.

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Topics: Primary Care