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6 steps to prep for your visit to the doctor

A felt heart and a stethoscope lie across a line of string shaped like a heart beat.
Preparing for your appointment will help you get the most out of your time with the doctor.

When it comes to visiting your GP, a little bit of preparation can go a long way. Follow these steps to get the most out of your doctor’s appointment.

1. Write a list of what you want to talk about with your doctor

Once you’re in your doctor’s office and they’re asking questions and running tests, it can be easy to forget what you wanted to raise with them. Write a list of anything you need to talk to your doctor about, and prioritise the most important items in case there isn’t enough time to get through everything.

If your list of questions or symptoms is long, you can book a longer appointment when you call or book online, to make sure there’s enough time for you and your doctor to cover everything properly.

2. Consider whether you want someone to go with you

Having someone attend your doctor’s appointment with you can be helpful, but depending on the person, your relationship and the nature of your appointment, it might not be useful for you.

Think about whether it would be helpful to have someone else listen in on your appointment. If the doctor is giving you a lot of information, they can help by taking notes. They can also remind you of the things you wanted to raise with your doctor if you forget anything. A trusted family member or friend can be a good person to ask if you want someone else to attend your appointment with you.

If you think it would be disruptive to have someone else with you in the doctor’s office, or you think it would make it difficult for you to talk openly with your doctor, you do not have to have someone come with you. If someone is insisting on coming to your doctor’s appointment, but you don’t want them in the office, you can ask them to stay in the waiting area.

3. Know what medications and supplements you’re currently taking

It’s important to be able to tell your doctor about everything that you are currently taking, including prescribed medications, over-the-counter medications and supplements, including vitamins, minerals and herbs. If you have a My Health Record, some of this information might be included in it for your doctor to access digitally.

These things might affect or cause symptoms of illness or injury. They might also change how treatments that are prescribed by your doctor work. It’s a good idea to write a short list of anything you’re currently taking so you don’t forget when asked.

A young man has his blood pressure measured by his GP.

4. Be prepared to be honest

It’s really important to be honest with your doctor about any symptoms or concerns you have, as well as any activities you’ve undertaken that might affect your health.

Depending on why you’ve made an appointment, your doctor might ask about all sorts of things like your sexual history, drug and alcohol history, what you’ve eaten or what you’ve been thinking about. Answering these questions honestly can help the doctor treat you as well as possible. Remember: your doctor isn’t asking these questions in order to judge you, they just want to help you be as healthy as possible.

5. Let the doctor know if you don’t understand

While your doctor will do their best to make things simple and clear, information about health can sometimes be complicated. When you’re unwell, it might be difficult to make sense of everything they are saying. You can always ask your doctor to repeat what they’ve said if you don’t understand, or write it down so you can remember at home.

Let the administration staff know when you are booking your appointment if you need any interpretation or access services.

6. Call ahead if you might be infectious

If you think you might have an infectious disease like measles or influenza, it’s important to let your doctor’s office know before you arrive. Telling them when you book your appointment will help them lower the risk of other patients catching your illness.

Signs you might have an infectious disease include:

  • fever
  • cough
  • runny nose
  • rash

Not sure when to see your GP?

If you or someone in your family is unwell, but you’re not sure if you should visit the doctor, you can call 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84) to talk to a registered nurse. They can advise you whether you need to visit a doctor, if you can continue to care for yourself or the person at home, or if the situation might be urgent and require a visit to the hospital.

Queensland residents can call 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84) 24hours a day, 7 days a week.

Last updated: 20 August 2018