AboutHEALTH: Navigate Healthcare

Have you ever gone to see a medical doctor and wondered if you got the most out of that experience? You might have felt rushed or uncomfortable about asking questions. Have you ever been given a diagnosis, with serious consequences and not understood exactly what it meant or what you should do next? Well, you are not alone.

It is our belief that while good health begins with diet and exercise, once you enter the health care system, you must be organized to get the most out of it.

This guide was developed to assist the African American community and other communities to better utilize the health care system. The most informed consumer gets the best care. That is true when you shop for food and other necessities and it’s true for health care. This guide is intended to assist you in taking control of your physician visits.

Tips for Calling

When Calling Your Doctor

At some point, you will probably need to call your doctor. Get the answers to these basic questions before that time comes:

* What are your doctor’s office hours? Does the doctor work out of the more than one office?

* What is the best time to call?

* What is the doctor’s policy for returning calls?

* Who should you speak with if the doctor isn’t available?

* What is the phone number for emergency calls or after-hours calls?

When You Reach Your Doctor On The Phone

Tell your symptoms and problems. Write them down and keep the list by the phone so you don’t have to remember them. (Have someone else call the doctor for you if you are unable to do it yourself.)

Report results of home tests or symptoms that you have been keeping track of such as a temperature of 101 degrees for more than a day.

Ask the doctor what to do. Be sure to write it down.

Have your pharmacist’s phone number handy in case the doctor needs to prescribe any medications.

Ask the doctor if you should call back or come into the office.

Ask the doctor when you should go to the emergency room. Write down the symptoms to watch for.

Questions You Should Ask Your Doctor After Your Visit Is Complete

About Tests

Do I need more testing? If so, what? How much do these tests cost and will my insurance cover it?

How often should I have these tests?

Do I call to schedule the test or will your office do it for me?

How do I prepare for any tests I may need?

When and how will I get the test results?

About Medications

Why do I need this particular medicine?

What is the name of the drug?

How and when should I take it?

Are there any foods, drinks or other things I should avoid while taking this medicine?

What should I do if I forget to take it?

What are the known side effects? Is this drug known to cause birth defects? (Important for women who are pregnant or planning a future birth.)

How long will I have to take this medicine?

Is there a generic equivalent of this drug?

How will this new medicine interact with other drugs I’m currently taking?

Are there any non-drug measures that work as well?

About Specialty Care

Should I see a specialist?

Does this specialist work out of more than one office?

Can you recommend a specialist? Is he or she board certified?

How soon should I be seen by this specialist?

What if I can’t get an appointment for a month or more? Should I try to see someone else?

You And Your Doctor

Selecting A Doctor

The most important decision you must make in the health care system is your choice of a primary care provider. That choice is affected by a number of issues like:

* What kind of doctor do you want? Family Practitioner, Internal Medicine Specialist or Pediatrician for your children.

* Do you prefer a male or female physician?

* Do you have a strong preference about a physician’s age?

* Do you prefer that your physician be board certified?

* How important is it for the physician to spend a lot of time answering your questions?

* How important are your physician’s location, punctuality and office hours?

We recommends that you call and ask for an appointment to meet with the health care provider before you make your choice. Don’t wait until you are sick to find a physician.

Getting Ready For Your Appointment

A basic plan can help you communicate better with your doctor, whether you are starting with a new doctor or continuing with the doctor you’ve been visiting.

Take along any information the doctor or staff may need such as insurance cards, names or your other doctors, or your medical records. Some doctors recommend bringing a list of medications you take.

Be prepared: make a list of your concerns. Think about any important information you need to share with your doctor about things that have happened since your last visit. If you have been treated in the

emergency room, tell the doctor right away. Mention any changes you have noticed in your appetite, weight, sleep, or energy level. Share information about what’s happening in your life that may be useful medically.

For example, are you having a new symptom you want to tell the doctor about? Did you want to get a flu shot or pneumonia vaccine? If you have more than a few items to discuss, put them in order so you are sure to ask about the most important ones first.

Take notes. It can be difficult to remember what the doctor says so take along a note pad and pencil and write down the main points, or ask the doctor to write them down for you. If you can’t write while the doctor is talking to you, make notes in the waiting room after the visit.

Get written or recorded information – Whenever possible, have the doctor or staff provide written advice and instructions. Ask if your doctor has a website or any public social media accounts, brochures, videos, or other resources that relate to your health conditions or treatments.

Remember that this visit is for you to discuss your problems, not to satisfy the provider or his office staff. If you don’t understand what has been discussed, ask for more information.

Information You Should Know

Your Medical Plan Number:

Your Physician:

Advice Nurse:

Chronic Health Problems:





Medicines Taken Daily:

Operations (Date):

Blood Type:



Crisis Center:

Poison Control: