Topic Overview

Many people are more
satisfied with their health care if they share the responsibility with their
doctors. Your doctor is an expert on medical care, but you are the expert on
yourself. Often there is more than one option for diagnosing or treating a
condition. By being a partner with your doctor, you can help choose the option
that best fits your values, beliefs, and lifestyle. You also will feel more
confident about carrying out the chosen treatment.

Here are some
tips for being a good partner with your doctor:

  • Build a relationship with your doctor.
    Let your doctor know that you want to be a partner in your health care. Tell
    the doctor what your expectations are.
  • Be an active participant in each appointment. Listen carefully to what your doctor
    says. If you do not understand a diagnosis or treatment, ask questions. And tell
    the doctor if you think that following the prescribed
    treatment will be hard for you.
  • Have a family member or friend with you during your appointment, if possible. He or she can take notes, ask questions to clarify information, and help you remember what your doctor says.
  • Ask for instructions. Before you leave the doctor’s office, make sure you know what you are
    supposed to do to care for yourself. Ask for written information, links to videos and websites, and any other instructions.
  • Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It’s also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
  • Prepare your child for tests and exams.
    Let your child know why he or she is seeing a doctor and what will be done
    during the visit. Your child’s age and developmental level will determine how
    best to prepare him or her. And ask your older child if he or she would like to speak to the doctor alone. Teens may be more willing to talk about topics such as sexuality, mental health, and drugs or alcohol if they know they can have time on their own with their doctors.

What is the reason for your appointment?

your appointment, you will need to answer some important questions so that you
and your doctor can plan your care together. Completing the appropriate forms
before the appointment helps you provide correct and complete information, take
an active role in your health care decisions, and make the most of your limited
appointment time.

Choose the form that best describes your reason
for seeing the doctor.

Helpful forms
Reason for appointment Form to complete

A new problem or symptom

Appointment for a New Problem (What is a PDF document?)

Follow-up to a previous problem

Follow-Up Appointment (What is a PDF document?)

First appointment with this doctor

First Appointment (What is a PDF document?)

Your Family Medical History (What is a PDF document?)

Appointment for an ongoing health

Regular Checkup for a Lifelong Condition (What is a PDF document?)

Appointment for a child who is healthy

Regular Checkup for a Child (What is a PDF document?)

Do you take medicines?

If you
take prescription or over-the-counter medicines, including herbal remedies or
vitamins, bring all your medicines with you to any appointment with a doctor.
If you cannot bring the medicines, bring a
list of the medicines that you take (What is a PDF document?).

You might also bring a copy of your daily medicine schedule (What is a PDF document?). Your doctor can review the best times of the day to take each medicine and prevent unwanted side effects or interactions between drugs, supplements, or over-the-counter medicine.

What other forms might be helpful?

If you and your
doctor are going to discuss a new medicine, medical test, surgery, or special
treatment, choose a form from the following list. Then fill in your
information, and take the form with you to your visit. Completing the form will
help you understand the importance of the treatment your doctor is advising for
your health condition. If you do not have the form at the time of your visit,
complete the form at home after the visit.

Also, bring a copy of your health plan’s list of covered
prescription drugs. This list is also known as a formulary.

What do you need to do after the appointment?

Follow the instructions your doctor gave you, including filling a prescription, scheduling tests, or making another appointment. Call your doctor if you still have questions or if there is anything you do not understand.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if you have any problems or symptoms that concern you. Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety.

Update the medical records that you keep at home, including new test results and medicine changes. For more information,
see the topic Organizing Your Medical Records.

Other Places To Get Help


Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality: Patients & Consumers (U.S.)

American Academy of Family


Other Works Consulted

  • Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (2011). 20 Tips to Help Prevent Medical Errors. Patient Fact Sheet (AHRQ Publication No. 11-0089). Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Also available online:
  • Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (accessed November 2012). Questions are the answer: Better communication. Better care. Available online:
  • Anspaugh DJ, et al. (2011). Becoming a responsible health care consumer. In Wellness: Concepts and Applications, 8th ed., pp. 453-484. New York: McGraw-Hill.
  • Rakel RE (2011). Establishing rapport. In RE Rakel, DP Rakel, eds., Textbook of Family Medicine, 8th ed., pp. 146-165. Philadelphia: Saunders.
  • Ritter RH, et al. (2011). Interviewing techniques. In RE Rakel, DP Rakel, eds., Textbook of Family Medicine, 8th ed., pp. 166-175. Philadelphia: Saunders.
  • Wallace M (2010). Older adult. In CL Edelman, CL Mandle, eds., Health Promotion Throughout the Life Span, 7th ed., pp. 619-647. St. Louis, MO: Mosby Elsevier.


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Catherine D. Serio, PhD – Behavioral Health
Adam Husney, MD – Family Medicine

Current as ofOctober 9, 2017