The She Spends Guide to Getting the Most Out of Your Doctor’s Appointment

Let’s face it, healthcare in the United States isn’t cheap. For most, in fact, it’s prohibitively expensive. If you’re lucky enough, though, to have the care you can afford to use, it’s likely that you want to do everything you can to make the most of it. What follows is our guide to doing just that.

Before You Go
Find out if your doctor is in network. Visit your healthcare plan’s website, or even give a call to the doctor’s office to make sure that your appointment will be covered by insurance. Also, clarify how much your copay will cost. This will enable you to budget for the visit.
Call ahead to the office to determine whether you’ll be expected to get any blood work. If so, ensure that you have fasted for a sufficient amount of time, so you don’t have to return to the office for a separate visit. 

Make a list of the concerns you want to discuss with your doctor. If you have specific symptoms or instances of an illness like headaches or allergic reactions, make sure that you are able to share how you attempted to treat those symptoms. An easy way to do this is to use either a notebook or an app to track your health over time. Bring that notebook to your appointment or pull up your app once you’re there to share clear information with the doctor, ensuring better treatment.

When You’re There
We’ve discussed this ad nauseam in our Facebook group, but it’s often the case that doctors don’t take women’s issues seriously. Serena Williams’ health scare during childbirth is indicative of how widespread this problem is, particularly among black women.

While preparing ahead of time is necessary, speaking up during your appointment, as clearly and as unapologetically as you can is also important. Don’t be afraid to take up a doctor’s time. They’re there for you to ask questions, so do it. Use your health log (app or journal) to share symptoms and ask relevant questions. It also pays to be honest with your doctor, especially about habits like drug or alcohol use. Doing so ensures that you’re receiving the appropriate medications and recommendations from your healthcare professional.

If something about your treatment feels off, go with your gut and ask for either a different professional or type of care. If you’re visiting a gynecologist, particularly, you can always ask for a second person to be in the room with you and your doctor during the exam. 

Before you leave, make sure you and your doctor have a clear plan of action for the future, whether it includes follow-up visits, specialist appointments or certain treatment options. On your way out, ask the front desk how you are expected to pay: some will send a bill, while others expect cash up front. 

After Your Appointment
Fill your prescriptions and follow the care plan you and your doctor agreed upon. It seems like a no-brainer, but the biggest problem doctors and patients have is the follow-through. 

If you struggle to remember to take medication, set an alarm or get yourself a daily pill box. Make sure you put your follow-up appointments into the calendar you regularly use, and stick to those dates, rather than cancelling beforehand. 

If you liked (or hated!) your doctor, leave them a review on ZocDoc or Yelp so that others in your position can find the appropriate care.