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How to Prepare for a Visit with a New Doctor

Originally published November 9, 2022

Last reviewed November 15, 2022

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Illustration of "The Big Question" headline

Coming to an appointment prepared — and proactive — will help ease your nerves. Two physicians from Keck Medicine of USC weigh in on “The Big Question.”

Seeing a doctor for the first time can be scary. But with some simple preparation, you can approach a medical visit with more confidence and the most important topics to discuss.

Not sure where to start? Here’s what two Keck Medicine physicians recommend to make the most of your next appointment and to help establish a strong long-term relationship.

Patrice Tully, MD, primary care physician, USC Family Medicine

As a primary care physician, I view my role as that of health adviser, coach and guide. The first meeting focuses on learning past medical history, current concerns and ultimate objectives. 

It is quite helpful for me if patients know their prior diagnoses, medications, immunizations, family medical histories, allergies, past treatments and medications that were ineffective. 

“The first meeting focuses on learning past medical history, current concerns and ultimate objectives.” 

Patrice Tully, MD

In my experience, some patients face anxiety about new medical encounters. They may fear not being heard or allowed to tell their full story without interruption. They may have concerns about being believed and acknowledged in expressing health concerns. 

I operate from a place of trust, as I remember the advice of one of my earliest medical school instructors: Patients will teach you about disease if you listen and allow them to. Thus, before any medical decision-making, my first step is to listen.

Kristina Voss, MD, ophthalmologist, USC Roski Eye Institute

First, think about how you can effectively communicate your goals and all necessary components of your health history that will help your doctor achieve them. 

If you have symptoms for which you are seeking diagnosis and treatment, be prepared to define them clearly — including when they began, their frequency and duration, and what you have tried to improve them. 

“When a doctor meets you, it’s their goal to make you feel welcome … formulate a diagnosis, plan further work-up if necessary and develop a treatment plan.” 

Kristina Voss, MD

Be at ease and believe that your doctor wants to help you. When a doctor meets you, it’s their goal to make you feel welcome, create trust, listen to properly capture your history and symptoms, formulate a diagnosis, plan further work-up if necessary and develop a treatment plan. 

Your physician will try their hardest to meet your goals within your first encounter, but it may not be possible in every case.

The first visit may serve to represent the establishment of care and the formation of a doctor-patient relationship with a pact to continue working consistently to meet your health goals. 

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Topics

eye health
health care providers
preventive health
primary care
The Big Question
USC Health
Michael Juliani
Michael Juliani is a senior writer for Keck Medicine of USC.

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