Making the Most of Your Health Care Visit

The importance of establishing a good relationship with your primary care provider.

Dr. Andy AndersonWhether you are the patient, a family member, or a caregiver, being prepared for a trip to your health care provider can ensure a more productive office visit and increase the potential for a more effective outcome. “With a little preparation, you can become a more engaged partner in your own health, as well as the health of those you care for,” says Andy Anderson, MD, Chief Executive Officer of the Combined Medical Group of RWJBarnabas Health and Rutgers Health.

Dr. Anderson shares some tips to make the most out of your next health care visit:

  • Ask questions - Before your appointment, think about questions and concerns you may have about your health. “A productive conversation with your doctor can address preventive health strategies, as well as any potential health issues, allowing your provider to consider the best treatment plan for you,” explains Dr. Anderson. He advises you to also ask questions if you are confused or unsure about your treatment plan or condition.
  • Track your symptoms - It may help to keep a diary or notes about your symptoms. Dr. Anderson suggests you provide details on what you are experiencing when these symptoms began and what makes them better or worse.
  • Share medical history – “It’s important to honestly inform your provider about your medical history including any current or past conditions as well as surgeries,” Dr. Anderson says. In addition, he advises that you be prepared to discuss your family’s health history so your provider can identify any potential health risks such as heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, certain cancers, and type 2 diabetes. He notes that it is a good idea to let your provider know if you are under the care of any other health specialists so they can coordinate your care.
  • List your medications – “Always bring a current list of medications as well as discuss any questions you may have about your current prescriptions,” reminds Dr. Anderson. Reviewing your current medications helps your doctor make important decisions about your care and treatment.
  • Check your insurance – Each plan is unique and some provide different levels of coverage that could alter your out-of-pocket costs. “It is always best for the patient receiving care to contact their insurance company with any questions,” he says.

Four Questions to Ask Your PCP

Having an open conversation with your Primary Care Physician (PCP) is the best way to get the care you need at your annual wellness exam. “Preparing for your annual exam may be more productive if you write down your questions before your visit,” says Dr. Anderson.

  1. Am I due for any vaccinations? Vaccines are critical for maintaining your health. Ask which vaccines you need based on your age, health history, job and lifestyle. And, it’s a great time to talk to your PCP about COVID-19 vaccines.
  2. Do I need any annual screenings? Preventive screenings are medical tests that check for diseases and health conditions, such as a mammogram or prostate check, even if you have no symptoms. Screenings help your doctor catch problems early when they are more treatable.
  3. Do I need any changes to my prescriptions? Annual wellness exams are a great time for you and your provider to re-evaluate any prescription medications you may be taking. Any changes in health status, habits or lifestyle could impact your medications.
  4. How can I get my test results? Many doctors’ offices use an electronic medical records system for patient health records, which are linked to patient portals. Patient portals maintain a record of previous and upcoming appointments and testing and results.

Following an appointment, don’t hesitate to contact the physician’s office with any questions. “Many physicians call their patients to discuss results or answer any questions, but a patient portal is one of the fastest ways for patients to access their test results themselves,” explains Dr. Anderson. “When looking for your test results, ask your PCP if a patient portal is available for you.” Patient portals allow you to check your results

When you choose a Combine Medical Group primary care provider, you gain a trusted partner to not only treat you when you’re sick, but guide you to improved health and wellness. With convenient locations throughout New Jersey, one of our primary care practices will be close to your home and easily accessible. To schedule an appointment, please call 1-888-724-7123 or visit www.rwjbh.org/medgroupprimarycare.