You’re a healthy young adult living on your own for the first time. Going to the doctor may be the last thing on your mind.
But now is the time to establish a relationship with a primary care doctor. You need someone to turn to for general health care — and a trusted resource in case you get sick. By having regular checkups, you’ll lay the groundwork for future good health.
Here’s what you need to know about how to make a doctor’s appointment.
Why You Need a Doctor in Your Twenties
Many young adults delay taking charge of their health care. That’s understandable. Finding a doctor can feel confusing or unnecessary, so you may feel tempted to put it off.
Here’s why you shouldn’t wait. By seeking health care now, you can:
- Develop an ongoing relationship with a doctor. If you develop an illness or injury, you’ll be able to see someone who already knows your medical history. You’ll feel more comfortable with a person you already know and trust.
- Catch potential problems early. True, chronic problems like diabetes and high blood pressure are more common in older people. But spotting problems now, when you have more time to make lifestyle changes, can make a huge difference later in life.
- Ensure you’re up to date on vaccines and health screenings. Pap tests, tetanus boosters, and flu shots are a few of the tests and vaccines young people need.
- Get good advice for your specific situation. A doctor can provide tips on healthy living based on your lifestyle.
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What Kind of Doctor Should I Look For?
There are different types of health care providers. Here are some doctors you should see on a regular basis.
- A primary care provider (PCP). A PCP is the doctor who oversees your health care. They can specialize in family medicine or internal medicine. You’ll see your PCP for checkups, immunizations, minor illnesses, and referrals to specialists.
- Obstetrician-gynecologist (ob-gyn). Women should see an ob-gyn every year for their reproductive health. That includes cancer screenings and birth control, as well as pregnancy, labor, and childbirth.
- Dermatologist. You should see a dermatologist, or skin specialist, every year for a full-body scan. A dermatologist can spot early signs of skin cancer.
- Dentist. You should have an exam and cleaning once or twice a year. If you have cavities or other problems, you may need to go more often.
- Eye doctor. Even if your vision seems perfect, you should get your eyes examined every two years. With regular exams, an eye doctor can spot potential problems early.
How to Find a Doctor
Before you look for a doctor, ask yourself what’s most important to you in a provider. Here are some things to think about:
- How far am I willing to travel? Would I prefer a doctor close to home?
- Would I be more comfortable with a male or female doctor — or does it matter?
- Do I need evening or weekend office hours?
- Do I prefer a large or small practice? A small practice can feel homey and you’ll get to know the staff. A larger practice may offer more specialties under one roof — and more doctors to see on short notice if yours isn’t available.
- Would I prefer a doctor who offers video appointments? (Keep in mind that most doctors want to see you in person at least once before scheduling video appointments.)
To find a doctor:
- Look online. UPMC’s Provider Directory is a great place to start. You can search for and schedule appointments with doctors based on condition, specialty, provider name, or practice name. Search results can be narrowed by several categories including location, language, gender, and online booking capabilities to meet your health care needs.
- Ask family members, friends, neighbors, and coworkers for their input and recommendations.
- Ask questions about the doctors your friends and family recommend. Personality is an important part of the patient-doctor relationship. You want someone you’ll feel comfortable with.
- Check with your insurance company to see which doctors are in your network.
- Be sure to look for a doctor who’s accepting new clients.
How to Make a Doctor’s Appointment
Once you’ve found a doctor who seems like a potential good fit, it’s time to schedule an appointment. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- See what scheduling options are available. Some doctor’s offices have online scheduling for new patients. If the doctor you want to see doesn’t have online scheduling, or you prefer to book over the phone, call the office. Additionally, some offices offer both in-person and video visit appointments. When scheduling, you will be able to see the different appointment options or ask the office which they think is the best fit for you.
- Tell the office staff that you’re new to the practice. They will get paperwork ready for you to fill out when you arrive for your first visit. And they will book a longer, first-time patient appointment for you.
- Make clear the reason for your visit. Are you feeling sick? Looking for a new provider? Do you have a specific problem, such as allergies or anxiety?
- Have your health insurance information handy. The office will need to know what kind of insurance you have, along with your member ID and group number.
- Ask what you should bring to the first appointment. The medical staff may need to see your immunization records and insurance card.
- Let them know which doctor you’d like to see. If it’s a group practice, keep in mind that it might take longer to get an appointment if you wait for a particular doctor.
Preparing for Your Doctor’s Appointment
There are a few things you can do to get ready for your first doctor’s appointment.
- Plan to get there 15 to 30 minutes before your scheduled time to fill out paperwork.
- Bring your insurance card with you.
- Ask family members about any diseases (like cancer or diabetes) that run in your family. Your doctor will ask you about your family’s medical history.
- Review your own medical history. The doctor will also want to know about any previous illnesses, injuries, surgeries, and allergies.
- Write down a list of medications and supplements you take (birth control pills, asthma medicine, vitamins, etc.).
- Prepare a list of questions to take with you. It’s normal to be a little nervous when seeing a new doctor. A list of questions can help you stay on track.
At Your First Appointment
Before the doctor sees you, a nurse will take your blood pressure and temperature. They will weigh you and measure your height.
The doctor will ask questions about your health history and any symptoms you might be having. They’ll perform a physical exam and ask if you have any questions or concerns. They may schedule bloodwork or write a prescription.
If your doctor notices anything concerning, they may recommend a follow-up visit, or refer you to a specialist.
After Your Appointment
After your first appointment, it’s important to continue managing your care. UPMC’s patient portals offer quick, easy, and secure access to your health information 24/7.
A patient portal account lets you message your provider with follow-up questions, schedule appointments, have a video visit, view test results as soon as they become available, and more. Be sure to ask your doctor’s office which patient portal you should be using and how to create an account.
Washington Post, Even in your 20s, you should have a doctor you can see regularly, Link
Healthcare.gov, Making an appointment, Link
Healthcare.gov, 5 tips to prepare for doctor's visits, Link
Healthcare.gov, Attention college grads: Know your health insurance options, Link
New York Times, A Doctor's Guide to a Good Appointment, Link
Kidshealth.org, When Your Child Outgrows Pediatric Care, Link
About Primary Care
The relationship with a patient and their primary care doctor can be extremely valuable, and that’s what you get with UPMC Primary Care. When you work with a primary care physician (PCP), you develop a lasting relationship. Your doctor will get to know you and your history and can plan your treatments accordingly. Our PCPs offer a variety of services, including preventive care and treatment for both urgent and chronic conditions. With dozens of UPMC Primary Care locations across our network of care, you can find a PCP close to you. Schedule an appointment today.