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Five Tips Before You See Your Primary Care Doc


By Scott LaFee   |   October 25, 2018

For most people most of the time, their primary care physician is the first person they contact when they have a health issue, excluding emergencies, of course. Primary care physicians are also the type of doctor most people see most frequently.

Below, we’ve gathered doctors’ advice from actual primary care physicians at UC San Diego Health on a few of the smart things you can do before your next appointment or visit.

doctor and patient
  1. Learn as much as you can about your current condition or concern. It will help to have a full and engaging conversation with your doctor, who can answer questions, clarify points or misinformation and perhaps benefit your diagnosis and treatment. Clark Bach, MD, Rancho Bernardo
  2. Arrive at least 15 minutes before your scheduled appointment to give yourself time to fill out any paperwork. When patients arrive exactly on time, but must delay to fill out necessary forms or questionnaires, it slows the entire process, putting the doctor behind schedule and every patient who follows. That’s frustrating for everyone. Julie Sierra, MD, Hillcrest
  3. If you get nervous coming to the physician, ask a trusted friend or family member to come with you for support. Wear comfortable clothing. Tell your physician why you are nervous. We are here to help you and want you to be as comfortable as possible. We want to create a safe space for you. Everything that you tell us is confidential unless there is a serious and imminent threat to yourself or another. Anna Van Niekerk, DO, Rancho Bernardo
  4. Have a list of all medications you take, including dosage and frequency. Or bring in all of your medication bottles. Also, gather as much information as you can on any specific allergies to medications. For example, is your allergic reaction a rash, shortness of breath, tongue swelling or vomiting? This will help the doctor determine if you have a true allergy or just an intolerance to a medication, which might become important if you develop a problem with your health in the future. Amruti Borad, DO, Rancho Bernardo
  5. Bring your list of questions and updates too. As a patient, it is important to think about why you are going to the doctor and the list of questions that relate to it, as well as history about any new issues. This saves time and ensures you don’t forget something. Write the questions down so you can look at them while speaking with the doctor. Keep in mind your goal for the visit: is it to find out what is going on with an acute illness? A follow-up for chronic medical issues? Or are you getting a health care screening. Most visits allow time for just a few issues to be addressed, so make sure the most important questions are reviewed first. Marlene Millen, MD, Sorrento Valley

Bonus tip: If you haven’t already, sign up for MyUCSDChart, which provides secure access to your medical records at UC San Diego Health. You can manage appointments, view lab or imaging results, renew prescriptions and correspond with your doctor or clinic — online, anytime. Plus, you can take advantage of OpenNotes, which allows patients to read the actual medical notes taken by their physician.

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