Talking to Your Doctor: 10 Things to Cover at a New Patient Visit

Good communication between medical professionals, like your family GP, and patients are needed for an accurate diagnosis and treatment. Remember: everything you tell a doctor is confidential, as they are bound by the Hippocratic Oath, an ethical obligation to uphold patient confidentiality and privacy. Effective communication also means you are better educated about your disease or condition and those who understand this are more likely to be engaged in their care and recovery. Discover the best things to cover at a new patient visit, as Bloom discusses the top 10 things you need to consider.

The 10 things to cover at a new patient visit

If you are visiting a doctor for the first time, there are several things to cover at a new patient visit. We recommend some of the following:

1. Your medical history

You will need to provide your doctor with a summary of your medical history to date. This allows the doctor to comprehensively understand your current health and identify any potential risks that may affect your health now or in the future. Some of the benefits of discussing your medical history include:

  • Preventative care and treatment. Once your doctor has confirmed certain risk factors, like high blood pressure, they might recommend regular screenings in order to monitor the condition.
  • Accurate diagnosis. Equipped with the proper knowledge, a doctor can make a better diagnosis of your health or a certain condition.
  • Coordinated healthcare. You may need to see a specialist or several other healthcare professionals. Your doctor needs to be aware of this so they can communicate with those involved in your treatment plan.

2. Medication – past and present

Another thing to cover at a new patient visit is your medication history, past and present. This means you need to disclose any prescribed medication you’ve been taking as well as the over-the-counter medication you may take on a regular basis. If you’ve experienced any side effects with certain types of medication, it’s important to discuss this too. A thorough report of your medication history allows a doctor to make an informed decision when it comes to prescribing or adjusting medication. Some of the reasons for discussing medication history include:

  • Identifying and preventing harmful side effects. Some medications can cause side effects, like high blood pressure.
  • Adjusting dosage. Your doctor may need to adjust the dosage of your prescribed medication based on several factors, like your age or the severity of your condition.
  • Diagnosing underlying medical conditions. Some types of medication may mask the effects of medical tests or the symptoms of certain conditions. By knowing your medication history, your doctor will be in a position to better analyse and interpret test results or symptoms.

3. Lifestyle habits

Your doctor needs to get a good understanding of your routine lifestyle habits in order to identify particular risk factors. This means that you need to disclose any high-risk activities, like unprotected sex with multiple partners, smoking, and alcohol use. You also need to bring up health concerns, like your diet, exercise routine and sleep cycle. Once your doctor has a clear and honest overview of your lifestyle, they can make assessments, like:

  • Identifying particular risk factors
  • Developing a personalised treatment plan based on your lifestyle habits. They may recommend a low-salt diet, for instance, if you were suffering from obesity or high blood pressure due to poor eating habits and a lack of exercise.
  • Preventative care. Your doctor will alert you to potential risk factors, based on your lifestyle, and may recommend lifestyle changes or treatment plans, like getting regular health screenings.
  • Health and well-being advice. A doctor can provide you with advice and resources in order to live a healthier lifestyle. They might recommend visiting a nutritionist, or prescribe certain medication to minimise risk factors.

4. Family medical history

Discussing your family medical history is important for identifying potential genetic risks and, in doing so, developing a personalised preventative or care plan to address these risks or concerns. Some of the benefits of understanding your family medical history include:

  • Identifying potential health conditions that you might inherit due to hereditary genes. Certain health conditions, like cardiovascular disease, diabetes and some types of cancer, often have a genetic component, which means that your risk of developing these conditions is high.
  • Monitoring your health. If your family has a history of certain health conditions or diseases, your doctor can monitor your health with particular screenings or health checks, like a mammogram, which is used to identify breast cancer. If an early diagnosis is made, you can enter into a treatment or recovery plan quickly, which means that your outcome prognosis is more favourable than a late diagnosis.

5. Mental health

Good mental health is important for improving your quality of life. Your mental health affects many areas of your life, so by prioritising it and seeking support when needed, you can address any concerns or problems with an effective treatment plan. Some of the benefits of discussing your mental health with your doctor include:

  • Identifying mental health issues. You may be suffering from the symptoms of a particular condition or disorder, like depression, which is causing undue stress and having a negative effect on your personal or professional life. By discussing your symptoms with your doctor, he or she can make an accurate diagnosis.
  • Developing a treatment plan. Once you’ve received a diagnosis, your doctor can recommend an effective treatment plan, like therapy, counselling or medication, like as anti-depressants.
  • Managing a chronic mental health condition. If your doctor diagnoses a chronic condition, like bipolar disorder, they will need to monitor the condition on an ongoing basis.

6. Current symptoms

If you are currently experiencing symptoms, it’s best to discuss this with your doctor so you can get an accurate diagnosis and start a treatment plan. By working together with your doctor and sharing your symptoms, you can ensure that you receive personalised and effective care for an acute or chronic condition.

7. Questions and answers

Everyone should have a set of prepared questions to ask their doctor as one of the things to cover in a new patient visit. This will give you a better understanding of your health, and specific condition and allow you to make informed decisions. We recommend asking some of the following questions, but it will depend on your personal circumstances:

  • What is my diagnosis or condition?
  • What are the causes of my symptoms?
  • What tests or procedures do I need to undergo?
  • Explain the treatment plan
  • What is the correct way to take the medication prescribed?
  • Are there any known side effects of my medication?

8. Health goals

Maybe you have specific concerns or simply want to improve your overall health and well-being. Discuss these goals with your doctor. By working together and sharing your goals, your doctor can develop a care or treatment plan that can help you achieve these goals over a realistic timeline. Some other reasons to discuss your health goals include the following:

  • Develop motivation and accountability. By setting health goals with a third party, you will be more motivated to achieve these.
  • Receive helpful resources. Your doctor is in a position to assist you with help and resources. They might recommend a quit-smoking group to help you on your health journey.

9. Next steps

It’s always important to discuss the next steps after you’ve received a diagnosis or lifestyle recommendations. Ask your doctor to give you a clear and detailed step-by-step outline of your treatment plan, including medical tests, specialist referrals, monitoring, medication and follow-up care. The next steps will also provide you with information about the expected outcomes and recovery/treatment process. Use this opportunity to clarify any concerns or questions.

10. Next appointment

Scheduling your next appointment with a doctor is important for several reasons:

  • Ensuring continuity of care. Scheduling your next appointment ensures that you receive ongoing care and follow-up for any health concerns or conditions.
  • Monitoring your health. Regular check-ups and screenings will allow your doctor to monitor your health and track any changes, positive or negative, in your condition.
  • Managing chronic conditions. If you have a chronic health condition, it will be necessary to schedule regular appointments to manage the situation effectively.

Healthcare cover with Momentum Health4Me

Bloom recommends a lifestyle that promotes good mental and physical health. This means having a good relationship with your local doctor. Follow these things to cover at a new patient visit to ensure good communication and effective treatment plans. Ensure that you and your family are covered for any medical conditions with access to private, top-quality medical services. Explore our healthcare options in medical aid, health insurance and gap cover.

Contact Bloom’s office to make an appointment with a trained consultant to discuss available plans.

Medical Content Disclaimer

You understand and acknowledge that all users of the Bloom website are responsible for their own medical care, treatment, and oversight. All content provided on the website, is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. Neither is it intended to be a substitute for an independent professional medical opinion, judgement, diagnosis or treatment.

dr korangteng peprah obstetrician and gynaecologist

Dr Bianca Lewarne

General Practitioner
MBChB, University of Witwatersrand

011 803-9392


This content has been reviewed and approved by Dr Bianca Lewarne. She is a General Practitioner in family medicine in Sandton, Johannesburg.
Dr Lewarne is registered with the Health Professions Council South Africa (HPCSA).

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