How to make the most of your GP appointment

Visiting your doctor is one of the best ways to stay on top of your health. So how can you ensure your 15-minute appointment gives you bang for buck?

Whether it’s an annual check-up, getting advice on symptoms, or managing an ongoing health problem, the time you spend with your GP is precious.

And it’s easy to become overwhelmed or anxious and to forget vital information or questions you want your doctor to answer.

Unless you specifically book a longer appointment, you’ll have around 10 to 15 minutes with your GP.

Dr Natalie Rode, of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, has some tips to help you make the most of every moment.

Before your visit

  • Book a long appointment: If you have multiple issues or want to discuss a more complicated issue, like mental health.
  • Make a list of the things you’d like to discuss: Show your GP the list at the start of the appointment. Prioritise what is most important to discuss today.
  • Scrub up on your history: If you’ve never been to the GP practice before, bring an up-to-date list of your medications, including the dose you take. If possible, know your family history, especially for conditions that might be inherited like diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart attacks, strokes and cancers.

During your visit

  • Arrive on time: GPs have back-to-back appointments and if you arrive late, you’ll have less time with your GP.
  • Ask the doctor to explain anything you find confusing: Taking notes is helpful and a GP may also direct you to fact sheets and websites to help you find information later.
  • Don’t be embarrassed: Your GP has seen and heard it all before and the more information you can give about your health issue the better. Tell them about any changes too, like disturbed sleep or if you’re drinking more alcohol than usual.
  • Know what’s next: Before you leave the room clarify anything you’re unsure about, including if follow-up appointments are needed.

What your pharmacist can advise you about

Sometimes your pharmacist can save you making a trip to the GP.

Go to your chemist for:

  • Emergency first aid and the treatment of minor health complaints
  • Advice on how to use prescribed medications
  • Flu shots
  • Blood glucose testing, blood pressure testing, hearing tests and to check cholesterol levels
  • Advice on how to stop smoking or weight management
  • Guidance on using medical devices such as asthma inhalers and diabetes blood test kits
  • Advice on pregnancy, pain management, oral dental hygiene, eye care and avoiding STIs
  • Travel advice and any vaccinations you will need if travelling overseas

Worried about seeing your doctor? Get the answers to the embarrassing questions you’re afraid to ask your GP. And find out how dietitians, nutritionists and naturopaths can help your health in our guide to prescription nutrition.

Written by Sarah Marinos.