Doctor’s Appointments – Get Your Money’s Worth!

by Katy on February 24, 2017 · 12 comments

This blog post first appeared over at

Going to a doctor’s appointment can be a frustrating experience. Endless waits in both the waiting and the exam rooms, and then getting home to realize that you’ve forgotten to discuss an important health issue. It’s no wonder that many people procrastinate even making an appointment.

However, with a bit of deliberate planning, you can get the most from your medical appointments by following these tips:

Time your appointment:

Ask for the first appointment of the day or the first one right after the lunch break. This way the doctor is less likely to be behind schedule due to patients visits that run long or extra appointments that get squeezed in.

Pay attention to when your appointment is:

Women’s annual appointments usually include a pap smear, which is a standard cervical cancer screening. Unfortunately this test cannot be performed while menstruating, so make sure to track your cycle in order to not lose out on this important test. Women’ states that “The best time to be tested is 10 to 20 days after the first day of your period.”

Be on time for your appointment:

Aim for being fifteen minutes early for your appointment, especially if it’s a new provider that may requires sheafs of paperwork to fill out. Late patients run the risk of losing precious minutes with their doctors.

Make a list:

It’s easy to get flustered or distracted when sitting one-on-one with the doctor, so you do yourself a favor and write out a list of what you want to discuss. To also include should be any medications you take, (both prescription and over the counter) as well as the dosages. Also, you should prioritize this list, in case you don’t get a chance to hit every topic.

Be concise with your information:

Everyone in your life may love your stories about great-aunt Ethel’s crazy health issues, but you need to make every minute count. Many offices schedule a mere fifteen minutes for each appointment, so going off topic takes away from the time to discuss your own health issues.

Always ask about generic medications:

Although not all medications are available in a generic form, many are. Pharmaceutical companies deliberately make their brand names easier to remember and pronounce than the generic, which makes memorization more difficult for everyone, even the doctors. Make sure to request generics whenever you receive a new prescription.

Ask for a 90-day prescription:

It can be less expensive to fill a 90-day prescription, rather than three 30-day ones. Plus, it cuts down on the time spent keeping your prescriptions filled. This is a great plan for long term medication usage.

Ask for free sample and coupons:

Pharmaceutical reps provide copious amounts of samples that are not just for low income patients. So make sure to nicely ask both your doctor and their nurse if you can get samples for new, long term and even over the counter medications. Don’t forget to ask for any additionally available coupons while you’re at it!

Ask about specialty programs:

Many pharmaceutic companies have programs to assist with the cost of medications for low income patients. You may have to research these ahead of time, as not all doctors are aware of programs available to their patients.

Confirm that specialists and labs are in-network:

Each doctor works with a myriad of different labs and specialists, many of whom may not accept your insurance. This may sound like an intimidating project to delve into, but it’s usually just a matter of a phone call or two. These minutes on the phone can keep you from a surprise bill for hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

Don’t assume you need to see the doctor:

Not all medical needs require you shell out for a co-payment to see the doctor. Examples may include immunizations and quick procedures such as a strep test. Call ahead to your doctor’s office to clarify their policies.

Shop around:

A single medication can vary in price much more than you realize. Websites such as take the legwork out of comparison shopping, and even have links to discounts and coupons to bring your price down even further. A good tip is to go directly to the pharmaceutical companies’ website for discount programs that can take a huge chunk from the cost of your prescriptions.


However you schedule your doctors’ visits, just make sure to be as organized and well informed about your own medical conditions and insurance coverage. And lastly, bring a book. Because you can do everything in your power to be seen on time, yet still end up waiting around.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Jennifer February 24, 2017 at 3:15 pm

Another thing I always think about is to use your time wisely. I worked in a clinic as a nurse for many years and patients would complain about waiting so long in the room. They would stand in the doorways and were obviously irritated. I would then think what I would give to have time to just sit around in a quiet room and wait for a little while instead of busting my butt in this clinic? So this taught me to plan ahead for doctor visits. Things to do while you wait: take a nap, read a book, meditate, stretch, check emails, look up a new recipe then make a list for it, talk to your kids/family, crochet, draw, play games, etc. I guess my point is, your are stuck there so please take advantage of that time.


Bee February 24, 2017 at 4:17 pm

This is a great article. I found that making a list was a must when my children were little and also when I was dealing with elderly parents. It is easy to get sidetracked.


NMPatricia February 24, 2017 at 4:25 pm

Another “frugal” thing to consider when making the appointment for annual Pap smears – make sure it has been a full year since the insurance had been billed. I once didn’t think it would matter given they were in different years. Wrong and ended up paying for an “extra” Pap smear. The doctor asked me and I thought “Go ahead”. So it wasn’t his fault. Unless you want to pay for an extra Pap smear.


Melissa February 24, 2017 at 6:18 pm

This is a great list! I work for a physician & may I add: take notes at your appointment. The position often covers many different topics and it sometimes hard to remember everything that’s covered. Also use the office staff, we are happy to answer any questions you may have after the appointment to check with & clarify any instructions the physician may have given.


Marcia February 24, 2017 at 8:46 pm

Glad to see you back, Katy.

I always take a list–topics I want to discuss and which prescriptions need to be re-written.

I rarely wait more than 5 min. to see my dr. I have been his patient for 40+ years and he runs an efficient office and mostly keeps to his schedule unless he has emergencies. When that does happen, the staff will tell you where he is and when he’ll be back and give you the option of waiting or re-scheduling.
Needless to say, his patients love him. And he KNOWS you personally!


MamaMinou February 24, 2017 at 10:51 pm

These are such good suggestions! It’s easy to get flustered and rushed when there are several issues to discuss and the time is so short.

One suggestion I have is to see a mid-level provider such s a PA or NP. I have an Adult Nurse Practitioner as my Primary Care Provider. The visits are a little longer and appear to be more holistic–she asks about exercise, family, diet, etc.


Dmarie February 25, 2017 at 8:16 am

what a GREAT post. thank you, Katy!


Katy February 25, 2017 at 10:39 am

Love your suggestions! Asking for coupons has always paid off for us! We have been able to get my son’s epi pens for free every year thanks to coupons from the Drs. I also was able to get a very $$ medication I needed to take for 3 months for free as well. Those RX coupons are great!


Mariana February 25, 2017 at 10:57 am

Need to be extra careful and double check about the ‘in network’ thing.
Although my doctor is definitely in network, the first first I was sent for ‘lab’ the nurse sent my blood to a lab that was ‘out of network’. Weird how it works, you would think they are aware of things and by default want to save you money and will refer you to a ‘in network’ location.
I am always double checking now before taking things for granted.


Marybeth February 25, 2017 at 4:15 pm

So true about samples. I got a prescription once and when I went to pick it up it was $125. I called my ENT back to see if there was a generic brand instead. They said come back to the office we will give you free samples instead. I have been on this medicine 2 more times and they have just given it to me both times. They marked it in my file. I love my ENT and the office staff.


Cathy February 26, 2017 at 7:57 am

Ask for a discount!
I recently had to see an out of network specialist and I was shocked when the bill arrived in the mail. I called and asked for a discount if I paid immediately by credit card, and they took almost 1/2 the cost off of the bill. I figured, it doesn’t cost me anything to ask…and boy was I glad I did!


Cathy February 26, 2017 at 7:58 am

Forgot to mention, pay the credit card in full every month as well. Otherwise, it is VERY not frugal.


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