Improve office visit effectiveness: Help patients understand what to expect

April 1, 2024

When your patients come prepared for an office visit and know what to expect, it can help the visit go more smoothly and promote optimal health outcomes.

Inform your patients what to expect before, during, and after a visit

Your patients may feel more empowered and be more apt to take the actions needed for a productive visit. Your office may also receive less phone calls from patients who have routine questions.

We encourage you to develop a plan for informing patients what you need from them and what they can expect. Then, when your patient calls to make an appointment, your staff can communicate this information in various ways, such as verbally, by email, text message, or letter.

Consider using the guidelines below as a starting point.

Before the visit, ask your patient to:What your patient can expect:
Follow any instructions for pre-appointment activities that need to be completed, such as a fasting blood draw.To have the results ready for review by the provider at the visit. If the results will be available online, let the patient know they can download, print, and review them before the appointment.
Inform you of any special accommodations needed, such as handicap parking assistance or the help of an interpreter.To receive assistance with the requested accommodations on the day of the visit.
Arrive on time or 10‒15 minutes early.To complete paperwork, have vitals taken, and perform other specific tasks that are required before the actual visit with the provider begins.
Bring their ID card or have their digital ID card available.To pay any copayment, if applicable, when checking in for the visit.
Bring a current medication list or the actual medications, including vitamins or herbal remedies.To allow the provider to take into consideration each medication’s side effects when evaluating a medical symptom and avoid prescribing potentially interacting medications.
Be prepared to discuss their medical and family history.To have their history considered during the evaluation and when making referrals for screenings or tests.
Feel free to bring a family member or friend.To have support in taking notes, asking questions to clarify information, and helping remember what the provider says.

During the visit, your patient can expect:

  • A physical examination, including height, weight, and blood pressure measurements.
  • A review of medications and medical history.
  • A review of any tests or screenings.
  • An opportunity for an open discussion and to ask questions. Note that if this is a preventive care visit, advise the patient that other medical conditions discussed may be billed separately and not be included as part of the preventive exam (i.e., they will be billed according to their benefit coverage plan).
  • A prescription, if needed, to treat a health condition, and instructions on whether the provider will call it in to the pharmacy or issue a printed prescription.
  • Any referrals, if needed, for screenings, tests, or specialists. This includes:
    • Whether your office or the patient will schedule the visit.
    • Name and location of the referral and phone number.
  • When results will be available (for any screenings or tests) and how the patient will learn about them.
  • Instructions about follow-up appointments, potential screenings, tests, surgery, or other procedures they may need, when appropriate, including who will schedule the procedure (your office or the patient).


You can find additional helpful information in the following articles from Network News past issues.

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