If you get nervous at the thought of making a doctor’s appointment, you’re in good company. Many people are unsure of what to ask, what to say, and what information they need to have on hand when they visit a new physician.
So how do you make a doctor’s appointment? Just keep a few key things in mind, and you’ll have no trouble — even if you’ve never made an appointment before.
Make Sure the Doctor Is In-Network for You
If you have medical insurance, it’s important that the doctor with whom you are scheduling is an in-network provider with your insurance company. If they are not, your insurance may not cover your visit, or it may pay a significantly smaller percentage of the charges, leaving you responsible for the rest.
To find out whether the doctor is an in-network provider, you can:
Contact your health insurance company to verify (and make sure to verify that your chosen provider is contracted at the address you will be seen at)
Reach out to the doctor’s office to verify
Check online on the insurer’s website (although it’s typically better to verify with the insurance directly)
You may also be able to check with a digital marketplace like Zocdoc, which is free of charge and can give you a list of providers who match the criteria you input.
How Do You Make a Doctor’s Appointment?
If you get a list of in-network providers from the insurance company or a marketplace website, you should still confirm the information with the doctor’s office itself. The following are some important things to know when you call.
Have Key Information Ready When You Call
It’s important to have documentation available when you call to make your appointment. You will need to relay some information to the scheduling staff member during your conversation. If you are scheduling online, you will still likely need the same information.
Your Insurance Card
Have your insurance card available when you call the doctor’s office. Some offices will take your information over the phone, but not all of them will. If needed, give them the name of your insurance company. Let them know if you have Medicare, Medicaid, or another type of coverage.
If you are a new patient at a particular office, let them know. Sometimes, new patients must wait a bit longer than established ones to get an appointment, but not always.
Oftentimes, your appointment date will at least partially be determined by your reason for the visit. If you need a routine physical, you might have to wait a bit. However, if you’re sick with uncomfortable symptoms, you’ll likely be seen as soon as possible.
Your Requested Provider
If you would like to see a particular doctor, make sure you have their name handy. You might be able to be seen sooner at a group practice when you don’t request a specific physician.
Suppose the provider you’d hoped to see doesn’t have any availability at a time that you need. In that case, the scheduler you’re speaking with may recommend a different provider in your network who is available sooner.
The Reason for Your Visit
If you don’t have any concerns in particular and are just looking for a new care provider, make sure to let them know that. Alternatively, you might have a health issue that needs professional attention, such as depression, allergies, a sore throat, or a fever.
Whether you have a specific concern or not, make sure to let them know either way at the time you make your appointment.
Questions to Ask When Making Your Appointment
You should ask some questions when you’re on the phone with the scheduler. Some of these might be:
Where is the office located?
How far is the walk from the parking lot to the office?
What is your cancellation policy?
Which floor is the office on?
What is the mask policy for patients?
Are visitors (children, etc.) allowed at your visit?
Where is the best place to park? Is there a charge for parking?
Do I need a referral to see the doctor?
Will I need to pay my co-pay when I check in?
Ask how long the appointment might take and if there are any restrictions about foods or medications you should adhere to before your appointment (you might need to fast before bloodwork, for example).
You should also ask what you need to bring to the appointment. The provider might need a list of your current medications (or the medications themselves), your vaccination record, or other documents.
What to Expect When You Arrive for Your Appointment
In addition to what your provider has asked you to bring, you might also want to write down a list of questions for your doctor about your condition or symptoms.
When you arrive for your appointment, you may be asked for your photo ID and your insurance card. You might also need to pay your co-pay at this time.
Never hesitate to call the office and ask any questions you have. They are there to help you and to make your visit as stress-free as possible!