Visiting a new doctor is never easy. We all know that, and we all dread the
experience. I am often asked what should be taken to the first visit with a new
doc and what questions we should ask at that first visit. This Guide is meant to
help make those first visits easier.
What to take with you:
- Records from previous doctors. Some doctors and their staffs are reluctant to give records directly to the patient. You should know, however, that you have a legal right to your records, and they cannot legally refuse to give you a copy. They are within their rights to charge you for making a copy, but, under HIPAA, they must give you a copy if you request it.
- Your headache and/or Migraine diary. I know, keeping a diary can be a real nuisance, but even when we can't see patterns, the information can prove very valuable to your doctor in diagnosis and in setting a treatment regimen. A headache diary can be done in a number of ways. You can use a small notebook, a printed form, or a document on your computer. If you choose the document on the computer, you can make notes during your episodes, then transfer them to the computer later. If you'd like to print or download our diary, click HERE.
- Your list of symptoms, comments, and questions. No matter how "together" we think we are, it's virtually impossible to remember everything once we get to the doctor's office. I suggest making two copies of this information -- one for you, one for your doctor. Leave space for making notes. When doctors have our list of questions, they're less likely to mistakenly think we're finished and leave the exam room while we still have questions.
- Confidence and self respect. Sure, good doctors deserve our respect. Just don't forget that we deserve respect, too. Head pain disorders tend to make us a bit more emotional and a bit less confident. We begin to doubt ourselves. Don't fall into that trap. Just have your information and questions ready. Give and expect respect, and don't settle for less.
What to ask your new doctor:
It's probably important to note for this section that I've had some great experiences with doctors and some pretty rotten experiences as well. There were times when I stayed with less than great doctors, but those times are over. I have now "fired" a few doctors, too. Don't get me wrong. I respect doctors, but I expect them to both deserve my respect and to return it. So, the first few questions in this section are about how the doctor works with his/her patients and what you want and can expect from the doctor. Not everyone will be comfortable with these questions, so you can, of course, just not use them. They are here because they are questions I always want answered before I decide if I am even going to begin treatment with a particular doctor.
Questions about the doc and his/her practice:
I'll suggest the phrasing here, but you'll want to phrase these questions in a way that's natural for you, of course.
- I want to be active in my health care. How do you feel about the team approach where the patient is an active member of their own health care team?
- Because I want to understand, not because I question your judgment, I tend to ask quite few questions. Will this bother you?
- Will you be the doctor I see every time I have an appointment here? (for group practices)
- What's the procedure if I need assistance outside of office hours?