How to get the most out of every medical visit -- especially now

Call ahead, be smart about appointment times, consider a telehealth visit

A woman who appears to be sick. (Pexels stock image)

Hopefully, you’ve remained healthy this season, avoiding colds, the flu and perhaps most seriously, the COVID-19 pandemic.

But regardless of whether you’ve felt sick these past few months, safe to say, you always want to get the most out of every medical appointment. Right? As is the case with so many other things in life, a little preparation can go a long way.

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Here are some tips you can use to make every medical appointment as valuable as possible.

Call ahead for your appointment, including information on your symptoms.

One thing first: If you’re experiencing a true medical emergency, there is no time to waste. Your first call should be to 911.

But if you’re seeking routine care, it’s important to call ahead and give a full rundown of your symptoms.

This advance notice and symptom chart is even more important during cold and flu season, or in this current COVID-19 pandemic, when patients can be highly contagious and health care workers are at increased risk.

Knowing what you’re experiencing ahead of time will give the medical staff time to prepare by donning surgical masks, gloves and other protective equipment.

Sign up for your doctor’s online portal.

If your medical office or clinic offers it, consider signing up for the online portal. These websites are filled with valuable resources, from the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, to standard recommendations for cold and flu season.

You can also access valuable personal information through the online portal, from a list of your current medications to the notes from your latest visit. Signing up is fast and easy, and having the information at your fingertips could prove to be valuable.

Consider a video visit.

Medical offices can be overwhelmed by patients, especially lately, so if your symptoms are mild, consider a video visit to discuss your concerns and get some health recommendations.

Many health insurers provide secure and private video chats, also known as telehealth appointments -- places where patients can discuss their symptoms and their medical histories with doctors, nurse practitioners and other medical personnel. And when you choose a video visit, you will not have to drive to the office, or even get out of bed.

Be smart about appointment times.

If you have a choice, make that choice count.

If you can pick your appointment time, try for the first appointment of the day. There are fewer chances for a delay, so hopefully, you’ll get in and get out.

Pro tip: If the first appointment of the day is already taken, ask for the first slot after lunch.

Fill out paperwork online and bring the forms with you.

If this is your first visit to an office, you’ll probably need to fill out a number of forms, including medical histories for yourself and your family members, a list of medications and other important information. You can save time by filling these forms out in advance.

When you make the appointment, ask about any form requirements. This could save you half an hour or more once you reach the office.

Provide the staff with your insurance information ahead of time.

If you’re seeing a new provider, give the office your insurance information prior to your visit. This can simplify the billing process and give you advance notice of any co-payments or deductibles.

When you arrive at your appointment, the staff may still need to make copies of your insurance cards, but having the applicable numbers in place will make your life, and theirs, a lot easier.

To make the most of your medical appointments, a little preparation can be a huge help. The tips listed above can help you maximize your time with the doctor, so you can get the treatment you need and get on the road to recovery.