How to Have a Successful Doctor’s Appointment

September 5, 2018
How to Have a Successful Doctor’s Appointment

Regular health exams by a Primary Care Physician (PCP) can stop problems before they start or catch problems early, giving you better chances for treatment and cure.

Why Choose a Primary Care Physician?

Your PCP acts as the top adviser on your health team. He or she can treat routine problems, do regular checkups and refer you to specialists when needed. If you’re managing a chronic illness like diabetes, an on-going relationship with a doctor who knows you well is important.

  • If looking for a primary care doctor, ask friends and family who they recommend. Check each doctor’s background to make sure it’s a good fit.
  • An urgent care clinic may be convenient, but your PCP knows your health history and can provide complete care. Use urgent care centers only for minor problems and if your doctor is not available.
  • A hospital ER should only be used for serious emergencies.

Tips for Your Next Doctor Visit

Know your goal.

  • Be clear about why you’re seeing the doctor and what will happen at the visit. That starts when you call to make your appointment. If you say you have a sore throat, you’re likely to have a 10-15-minute time slot. If you have multiple complaints, that won’t be enough time with the doctor.
  • Know the difference between a wellness, or preventive, visit and a problem visit. Many insurance plans cover wellness visits at no out-of-pocket cost to you. A visit for an existing problem will likely require a copayment.

Know your role.

  • You’re the expert on you. Your doctor is the expert on medicine. It’s OK to clarify and raise concerns, but demanding certain tests or medicines may delay treatments that could really help you.
  • Don't be afraid to make a change and see someone who’s a better fit for you.

Be prepared.

  • If you have a specific complaint, think through what it feels like, how long you’ve had the symptoms and what seems to make the symptoms better or worse.
  • What are the most important questions you would like answered? Write them down so you can stay focused.

Talk about follow-up.

  • Toward the end of your visit, your doctor will likely summarize the plan for you. Be sure to repeat back to him what you understand is happening, to make sure you’re both on the same page.
  • Write down the plan. You should have a few clear steps to take care of your health before the next visit.
  • Ask how to reach your doctor between visits. It could be speaking with a nurse by phone or email.

PCP Required for Individual “Metallic” Plans

Members on the types of individual QualChoice plans listed below must use a Primary Care Physician (PCP) to direct their care and arrange referrals to specialists.

  • Affordable Care Act (ACA)-compliant plans:
    • Platinum, Gold, Silver, Bronze or Catastrophic
  • Plans purchased at
  • Plans through the Arkansas Works program

Learn more at

A Doctor’s Tips for Going to the Doctor