Four Things to Say at Your First Visit with a New Doctor

talking to your doctor 11.30.15It’s always a little awkward getting to know a new physician. After the first hellos, and before the examination begins, it’s smart to set the stage for an effective relationship.

Physicians can’t read your mind. They don’t know what role you’d like to play in your own health care. If you’re like many people, you want to know everything necessary to make the decisions that will naturally and ultimately be yours to make.

You should see your physician as a consultant to you, someone whom you have chosen to evaluate your situation and give you recommendations and options. Recognize that while doctors, lawyers, accountants, and other professionals typically  know more about their specialty than you do, you should still see yourself as the ultimate decision maker.

Here are four things you should say at your first visit:

  1. I’d like to be told the pros and cons of whatever you’re suggesting I do.
  2. I’d like a copy of all data and reports generated from my care. Ideally, I’d like to see the notes you write down about me at each visit and get a copy of  every one of  my lab reports or test results.
  3.  I want to be told if there’s an option to wait and see. If you recommend I get a test or procedure, I’d like to know if we can watch the problem for a few months and revisit my situation to re-evaluate. If you believe my health problem is urgent, I’d like to know why.
  4. I want to know if there is a potential conflict of interest when you recommend something. If you suggest a drug, procedure or surgery, please let me know if you have  an ownership interest in the facility, or get paid by a drug company for teaching or consulting.

There may be other things you’d like to ask beyond this list. If your new physician balks at your questions or seems irritated or taken aback, unless he or she is the only doctor in town, this would be the perfect time to put your clothes back on and say goodbye.

All you have to say is something like, “From our conversation, I see we’re not a good fit. Thank you.”

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About Barbara Bronson Gray, RN, MN

I'm an experienced healthcare and science editor and journalist. But most of all, I'm a registered nurse with many years of experience working in hospitals. I've learned what patients and families need first hand. But I've also worked to improve hospitals and educate people about their health. I'm committed to helping people take charge of their health care and get what they need from a complex and often discouraging healthcare system.
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