Five ways to make the most of a primary care provider visit


In this article:

  • Annual visits to your primary care physician are an excellent way to monitor and maintain your health but they may not be a positive experience for everyone.

  • A family medicine physician at Swedish offers his top five ways to get the most out of your physician appointment.

Do you leave your doctor’s office feeling confident your health needs are being met? Or do you forget to ask important questions, get too embarrassed to discuss important issues and leave frustrated by the entire experience?

Regular visits with your primary care provider (PCP) are an essential component of maintaining health and wellness. Unfortunately, for many people the experience is not a positive experience. But it can be.

Elliot Twiggs, M.D., a family medicine provider at Swedish, shares his top five tips for getting the most out of your appointment.

Come prepared

“Prepare in advance by bringing a list of concerns or questions with you so you will not forget everything you want to discuss during the appointment,” says Dr. Twiggs.

There’s no such thing as a “dumb” question. It’s your body and it’s vital to your continued good health that you fully understand its care. Write down the top two or three things you want to discuss, including any questions you have about your health issues.

Make your list in advance before your appointment begins. It’s all too easy to forget what you want to say once you’re in the exam room. Putting it in writing ahead of time will help keep you on track.

Bring it with you

“Bring all your medications, including over-the-counter supplements, to your visit so they can be accurately documented into your record,” says Dr. Twiggs.

You can always make a list of your medications, including how much and how often you take them. But bringing them with you to the appointment is a good way to ensure your medical record is accurate. And you don’t have to write down unfamiliar names or complicated dosages.

While you’re at it, gather up any relevant health records and bring those with you as well.

“It can be helpful to bring in recorded logs of data related to your health condition like blood pressures readings or blood sugar levels as well as important health screening records like colonoscopy and mammogram results,” adds Dr. Twiggs.

Stay focused

The average physician appointment lasts 20 minutes or less. And while that may not sound like much time, it’s typically enough to discuss your most pressing health concerns. But only if you stay on topic.

“Try to focus on the main reason for the visit,” says Dr. Twiggs. “Keep in mind that additional appointments can be made to follow up on the same issue or discuss other concerns in depth."

Don’t be a stranger 

An annual exam is an excellent way to identify and treat minor health issues before they become major health challenges. It’s also an ideal time to determine whether you need any health screenings, tests or treatment to improve your health and minimize the threat of illness and disease.

“Plan to schedule a yearly preventive visit with your primary care physician. It provides a regular opportunity to discuss ways to maintain your healthy lifestyle,” says Dr. Twiggs. “Your physician can share valuable strategies to minimize health risk and discuss certain screening tests which have been proven to detect cancers at an early stage.”

Get personal 

We’ve all heard the saying, “Honesty is the best policy.” And that sentiment is especially true when you’re talking with your physician.

Be truthful with your provider. Don’t leave out details because you’re embarrassed or ashamed. Your physician is not there to judge — their main goal is to help you have the best health possible. The more they know about you, your health and your life, the better the care you’ll receive.

“Share what is important for your health goals or lifestyle and if you feel comfortable, it is nice to learn personal information about your family, occupation and hobbies,” says Dr. Twiggs.


Learn more and find a provider

If you have concerns about your health or it’s time for a check-up, it’s important to see a primary care provider. Whether you require an in-person visit or want to consult a doctor virtually, you have options.

Swedish Virtual Care connects you face-to-face with a nurse practitioner who can review your symptoms, provide instruction, and follow up as needed. If you need to find a provider, you can use our provider directory.

Join our Patient and Family Advisory Council.

Related resources

Providence Swedish opens new primary care clinic in Redmond Ridge

Watch video: inviting diverse stories into medicine

No more excuses! It's time for that wellness checkup

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.

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About the Author

Our job is to provide you with the resources to keep you healthy, and as such the Swedish Primary Care team offers a mix of clinical advice based on decades of experience, tips and health hacks to prevent illnesses, and recommendations for specialty care services when needed.

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