How to Prepare for Your Next Doctor's Appointment   

How to Prepare for Your Next Doctor's Appointment

Person's hands as they take notes ahead of a doctor's appointment, writing down concerns

January 31, 2023

Clinical Contributors to this story:
Magna Pastrano LLuberes, M.D.

Preparing for a primary care appointment ahead of time can help ease any stress or anxiety you might be feeling—plus, it helps give your doctor a clearer picture of your health. 

“Good communication between doctor and patient is one of the cornerstones of medicine,” says Magna Pastrano Lluberes, M.D., a primary care physician with Hackensack Meridian Health Medical Group. “Preparation goes a long way toward getting the right care. There may be signs of an underlying heart condition that you don't recognize, for example, but sharing observations with your doctor may provide clues that you need further evaluation.”

In the weeks prior to your appointment, Dr. Pastrano-Lluberes suggests paying attention to how you’ve been feeling and writing down any concerns or observations. That way, you can give a clear picture of your health to your doctor during the appointment.  

Step 1: Identify WHAT you are feeling.

For example:

  • Do you have shortness of breath? 
  • Are you feeling more tired than usual? 
  • Is there stomach pain, heartburn or nausea? 
  • Do you feel jaw pain? 
  • Do you experience leg cramping, swelling or numbness in your legs?

Because symptoms like these are so common, and can have a wide variety of causes, your doctor will want to create as complete a picture of your health as possible to determine what issues you are facing and how best to treat them.

Step 2: Think about WHEN you feel it.

  • Is it every day?
  • A few times a week?
  • Once a month?
  • Does it go away with rest?
  • How long does it take for the feeling to go away?

The duration and frequency of your discomfort can help your doctor zero in on an accurate diagnosis.

Step 3: Take notice of WHAT you are doing when you feel it.

  • Does the feeling happen when you are walking?
  • While walking quickly?
  • While exercising?
  • After eating or taking medication?

Pain that shows up seemingly without warning is a very different thing than pain that comes after a specific activity. Providing this information can help to decipher what’s going on.

Step 4: Note How Long It Lasts.

In addition to what you’re feeling and when you feel it, consider how long the feeling lasts and when it goes away:

  • Does it go away with rest?
  • How long does it take for the feeling to go away?

“Be proactive about the information you provide,” says Dr. Pastrano-Lluberes. “You may not think that certain symptoms are significant, but when all the information is pieced together, it may tell an important story about your health and wellness.”

checklist outlining what you can note before a doctor's appointment

Download and print a PDF of the pre-appointment checklist here

Next Steps & Resources:

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.


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