House Calls / Dr. Michael Schwartz

For some, visiting the doctor can be an intimidating experience. After all, your health is your most valuable asset. Knowing what to expect from your physician visit and how to prepare for it is a good way to overcome any fear or anxiety.

Upon arriving for your appointment, you must first check in at the front desk. It is recommended that you arrive 10 to 15 minutes prior to your scheduled appointment, since you will typically need to fill out paperwork making certain all your personal information is up to date. You should expect to be greeted politely by the office receptionist, who will ask for your insurance card and photo identification. This is important in order to prevent someone from fraudulently obtaining your insurance information and trying to use your insurance policy.

You will also be asked to satisfy your co-pay at this time. The co-pay is the amount predetermined by your insurance company to be your responsibility based on your individual policy. Insurance rules mandate that this fee be paid at the time of service, and suggest that a patient not be seen by the provider if the fee is not paid at this time. Most nurse visits, however, do not require a co-pay.

Once checked in, you will be asked to take a seat in the waiting room. The waiting room should be clean and comfortable. In addition, your physician should have reading material or a television for your enjoyment. The waiting room should also be a quiet place and therefore many physician offices discourage or prohibit the use of cellphones once entering the office. If you notice that the waiting room is unkempt or excessively noisy, you should report this to the front desk. They should address your concerns immediately to make the waiting area a comfortable environment for everyone.

Your wait should be short. Most physicians should not run more than 15 to 20 minutes behind schedule, however emergencies do occur. If your appointment is delayed, the front staff should notify you about the cause of the delay and give you an estimate of how much longer you will need to wait. Most appointment times are predetermined based on the patient's initial appointment complaint. It is not uncommon, however, for some patients to add additional complaints at the time of their visit. Your physician will usually try to address some of these additional issues, but obviously cannot address them all. It is best to make separate appointments if you have many issues you wish to address so that your physician is not forced to rush through your complaints and also so your visit does not cause a delay for others. If you do make an appointment for one issue and develop additional problems, notify the front staff and they will either schedule additional time or another appointment to review your complaints. Finally, your physician's office should also be respectful of your time and should make every effort to be on time. If not, you may need to consider another physician office for your health care.

Once called, the nurse will escort you to the examination room. The room should be clean and the temperature comfortable. Next, you will be asked about your medical problem. It is best to be as descriptive and concise as possible. This will assist the nurse in explaining your complaint to the doctor which will enable a more effective and efficient evaluation and treatment. The wait in the exam room should not exceed 15 to 20 minutes (barring an emergency).

Once your physician arrives, be prepared to discuss your medical concern. Your physician may bring a computer into the room to record information from the consultation. This EHR (electronic health record) is mandated by the government and must be used for every visit. Thus, do not be concerned if your physician types information into the computer while you speak and you should not take offence to this seeming inattentiveness. It is imperative that the doctor records all the information into your EHR. Indeed, your physician is paying close attention to you and once the record is completed a thorough examination of you complaint will be investigated.

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Patients frequently bring their young children to their appointments. This is understandable, however it is not uncommon for parents to spend much of their attention concentrating on their child and not themselves. It is imperative that the patient focus their attention on the reason they are visiting the doctor as this enables your physician to determine your problem and make treatment recommendations to make you better. In addition, other distractions like cellphone calls and text messaging can disrupt you and your physician's interaction, so it is best (and it is considerate) to turn your mobile devises off during your appointment. Finally, if you have other appointments scheduled immediately after your office visit, recognize that you may be delayed as emergencies do sometime occur in medical situations.

Visiting your doctor can be a stressful experience for some. Your physician's office should try to make it as comfortable as possible. Discuss with your physician ways you believe that the office can work better. Remember, if you have your health, you have everything. Make an appointment today.

Dr. Michael Schwartz is board certified in internal medicine with a private practice in Darien. For comments or questions, visit his website at