What to expect during your first primary care visit



A primary care provider is your health home base. The person you see for yearly exams and when you are sick or have an ongoing concern. He or she looks out for your long-term wellness by letting you know when you need preventive care, noticing problems, and helping you manage chronic conditions. When you work with someone who knows you it’s easier to maintain a lifetime of health.

The first time you meet with your primary care provider he or she will want to get a sense of your medical and family history. You can help your doctor, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant get a more complete picture by:

• Asking your previous provider to send your health records to your new clinic

• Filling out any paperwork before arriving

• Bringing all your medications in their original bottles

• Knowing your family history of diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.

It can sometimes be hard to open up about sensitive topics, particularly when you are just getting to know someone. It’s important to answer questions accurately. The information you give helps your provider prevent medication interactions, suggest appropriate preventive screenings, and recommend important lifestyle changes.

Your first visit is also an opportunity for a provider to get to know you as a person. She or he may want to learn about your family life, spirituality, hobbies, and exercise habits. Knowing what matters to you helps your provider develop care plans you can stick to.

Additionally, your provider will want to address any burning health concerns. Because this is a “getting to know you” visit, if you have a lot of health issues it might be necessary to make follow-up appointments to fully discuss each issue. 

Patients also have an important task during the first visit, too: Assess if this provider is someone they can develop a relationship with. Do you feel heard and understood? Does the provider maintain good eye contact and seem confident? Do you like the way the staff treats you? While it can take time for patients and providers to get to know each other, you want to feel like your provider is someone you can trust.

At the end of your visit your provider will tell you what you need to do next. Some patients may need to receive labs or imaging or schedule a follow-up appointment. Others may need to work on nutrition and lifestyle changes at home. Following your provider’s recommendations is critical to addressing health issues.

Finally, don’t forget to pat yourself on the back for prioritizing you! Staying on top of your health is one of the most important things you can do to feel and live better.


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