Tips for Advocating for Yourself at the Doctor’s Office

When you attend an appointment at your doctor’s office, you may believe your time with your physician is too brief to mention any specific problems you are experiencing.

On average, doctor’s appointments tend to last less than 20 minutes.

This short appointment average means you have a limited period where you can voice your health concerns, so it is important to advocate for yourself at a doctor’s office during this time. Although many health issues can be address quickly, some conditions require additional tests before the symptoms can be dealt with properly and a treatment plan can be given.

It is crucial to ensure the appropriate steps are taken to diagnose and treat your specific condition. Getting the right health care is vital, so do not be afraid of advocating for yourself and do not hesitate to explain your exact symptoms. Follow the helpful tips below to learn how to advocate for yourself at your doctor’s appointment.

Be Prepared

Being prepared for your doctor’s appointment is crucial, and you must ensure you highlight every concern and question you have so that your doctor can appropriately treat your symptoms. Make a list of your concerns and questions in advance as this can help you stay on track once the appointment has started. The last thing you want to do is find yourself hurried at your appointment, where you only remember to ask something as you walk out the door. By making a list of concerns and questions, you can be sure to not leave anything out.

If you are seeing your doctor about a specific health problem, it is important to make a note of when it first started, what the symptoms are and what makes the condition better or worse. Write these things down beforehand so your doctor gets all the information over the course of your visit. If you are seeing a specialist, make sure they have your latest test results, such as a blood test or a urine test. If you have a copy yourself, you may take it with you or your specialist can request the information from your primary care physician.

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Arriving early for your appointment can be beneficial as well. By getting to the doctor’s office 15 minutes prior to your appointment, you provide yourself with enough time to check in and fill out any required paperwork. This means more time can be spent on addressing your health concerns once your appointment with your doctor begins. Do not be late for your appointment, as you may end up spending less time with your physician.


Communication is important when you are visiting your doctor during a routine checkup or when you are feeling ill. If you do not tell your doctor about a concern, he or she cannot help you address the issue appropriately without prior knowledge of what is going on and how you have been feeling. Many people are simply embarrassed to mention a specific health problem, and this can result in a failure to address issues during a visit with their primary care physician. Solving your health problem is essential, so you must ensure you communicate effectively with your doctor and address your concerns.

Similarly, if your doctor tells you something that you do not understand or fully grasp, be sure to ask him or her to explain it again. Doctors can assume you know something when you do not, so do not be afraid of asking for clarification. The responsibility is on you to indicate whether you have understood something your doctor has said regarding the symptoms you have described. Before you leave the doctor’s office, determine that you know everything you need to know, such as:

  • Do you know when and how to take any new medication?
  • How soon must you make a follow-up appointment if your symptoms do not improve?
  • If an appointment with a specialist is needed, how soon after your original appointment must you see the specialist?
  • If you do not hear from the specialist, how long do you need to wait before contacting your doctor?

Studies have shown patients forget between 40 and 80 percent of the information they are given during a doctor’s appointment. You may ask permission to take notes during the exam if you want to ensure you are retaining the information provided to you by your physician. He or she may offer to provide you with a summary of the visit which can be emailed or printed after you have left the doctor’s office. You have a right to understand the possible conditions your doctor has outlined within your appointment, and you may request this information at the conclusion of your appointment if you would like to research this information further on your own time.

Know Your Medicine

Your doctor should assess whether the medication you are taking is still required each time a routine appointment is conducted, but this does not always happen. This means you may inadvertently take medication longer than is required, and it is best to keep a record of the medications you are on to avoid any potential issues. Make sure that you know the name of each medication you are taking and what the medication treats. Additionally, you must keep track of who originally prescribed the medicine for both your personal and medical records. You can then discuss your medication with your doctor at each appointment, safe in the knowledge you have a good understanding of why you are taking the medication and the effects it has on your condition.

Hire an Independent Patient Advocate

Advocating for yourself can be difficult for a variety of reasons. If you feel like your health concerns are not being addressed, you could hire an independent patient advocate to prepare you for your appointment and go with you to the doctor’s office. Your advocate may then be able to help you understand what happened during your appointment. He or she can raise any concerns you may have with your doctor and highlight any errors that have been made. Doctors are usually more than happy to have an advocate present during an appointment because they know it helps patients to fully understand everything being discussed. With a patient advocate, you are better prepared to follow treatment plans and make required follow-up visits to ensure your healthcare needs are being met.

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