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How to Adult: Dealing with Doctors

July 7, 2016


By Sarah Neill

Welcome to adulthood – a place where you have to do all the things that make you uncomfortable. These items include talking on the phone with strangers, making your own doctor’s appointments, paying taxes, voting, and much, much more. Learning how to adult takes a lot of practice, but you have the rest of your life to perfect it.

This summer, the easiest of these tasks to learn is how to deal with doctors. The flexibility of a free schedule allows for phone calls and appointments at any time of day. While the healthcare system can be frustrating, following these do’s and don’ts can.

Scheduling Do’s

Write Everything Down

When you are calling to set up an appointment, having a pen and notepad is useful. Start by asking with whom you’re speaking so you can follow up or avoid them (sometimes they’re just having a bad day). Note any possible times, problems, or things needed for your appointment. Before hanging up, summarize anything important to guarantee you understand everything. If you are anxious about phone calls, draft a script to keep from getting flustered and forgetting the goal: to schedule an appointment.

Save the Number

Be sure to make your doctor’s office a contact. Saving their info keeps you from searching for their phone number every time. When the office calls to confirm a visit, you’ll know to pick up the phone. Having each of the clinics’ numbers saved will also save you time when filling out paperwork at specialists’ offices. As long as you have your phone, you have your primary care physician’s (PCP) name and number.

Scheduling Don’ts

Don’t Go Out of Network

Insurance is confusing, so always double-check all your information. Even though a clinic accepts your insurance, your insurance might not cover the visit if the clinic isn’t pre-approved (in network). The best way to make sure your insurance is going to cover a visit is to find a doctor through your insurance company’s website. Every major health insurance provider has a doctor finder on their website.

Don’t Forget the Referrals

Some visits to specialists require a referral from your PCP, others don’t. The best way to know if you’re going to need a referral is to call your insurance company. Contacting your provider will also give you a chance to ask about recommendations for doctors; they can email you a list of covered physicians in your area. Referrals are an important reason to keep a PCP.

Appointment Do’s

Arrive Early

Despite the fact that you’ll probably be waiting a minimum of thirty minutes past your appointment time to be seen, getting there early can help speed the process along. There are always forms to fill out, even if you have filled them out before. The sooner you turn in your paperwork, the sooner you’re added to the list. Plus the good magazines go fast.

Bring Your Insurance Card

I know, seems simple. So don’t forget to grab it. Even if they have your insurance on file, it’s better to have it and not need it than, well, you know the rest.

Appointment Don’ts

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions

You’re paying for a service, so get the most out of it. Doctors went through many years of schooling to learn what they know, don’t feel embarrassed if you don’t know what they are talking about. Getting answers will better enable you to take care of yourself. Unlike WebMD, your doctor hopefully won’t tell you that every little ailment means your dying.

Don’t Forget About the Copay

Plan ahead on how you will pay the copay. You can call the clinic or insurance company to find out the amount due. Some clinics may not accept all forms of payment, so check before the appointment to ensure you’re prepared. Keep a copy of the receipt in case the insurance company asks for it later.

Sarah Neill is a political science major and a communication studies minor at Texas Lutheran University and she hopes to go into politics once she graduates. Sarah likes to stay busy on campus, whether it is working as an admissions ambassador and marketing & communications intern, or being at rehearsal for the TLU women's choir. She is very devoted to her studies, takes part in the Honors Program and is a member of Alpha Lambda Delta.