5 Tips to Make Scheduling Doctor’s Appointments Easier

Amy Barczy

| 3 min read

Amy Barczy is a brand journalist at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and writes for AHealthierMichigan.org and MIBluesPerspectives.com. Prior to joining Blue Cross, she was a statewide news reporter for MLive.com. She has a decade of storytelling experience in local news media markets including Lansing, Grand Rapids, Holland, Ann Arbor and Port Huron.

Scheduling a doctor’s appointment may feel intimidating if it’s something you don’t do often. It’s best to prepare yourself before making a phone call or scheduling online to ensure you are ready to answer questions from the office staff in order to secure your appointment.
Here are five tips to help make scheduling a doctor’s appointment easier.

1. Check your health insurance first

The first step to scheduling a doctor’s appointment is to find a doctor. If you already see a doctor, it’s always a good idea to check with your health plan to ensure the doctor is in network.
If you don’t have a doctor, your health insurance plan can help you locate one near you that is in-network. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network members can use the online “Find a Doctor” tool available when they log in to their member accounts to locate nearby in-network providers.

2. Get a referral

If you want to see a specialist and you have an HMO insurance plan, you will need a referral from your primary care provider first. This means you’ll first need to schedule an appointment with your primary care provider and discuss your health concerns with them. Your primary care provider will then make a referral to a specialist. A specialist is any doctor that has advanced medical training in a specific area, like urology, endocrinology, cardiology, podiatry and dermatology, as examples.
Individuals with PPO insurance plans do not need referrals to see a specialist doctor. However, primary care providers are a great resource and can still refer you to a specialist.

3. Prepare your documents

Before dialing the doctor’s office, gather your documents together. It’s a good idea to have at the ready:
  • Your health insurance card
  • Pen and paper to take notes
  • Calendar for scheduling 
  • Any referral information from your primary care doctor
Some practices allow you to schedule your appointments online through a patient portal. However, if you’re not satisfied with the experience or have questions, call the provider’s office. 

4. Be ready to describe your needs

When you’re calling a doctor’s office, be prepared to quickly describe the health issue that you want to have addressed. If you have never visited the office before, tell the staff you are a new patient. If you have visited the office before, tell the staff you are an existing patient and reference the doctor that you typically see.
If you’re calling with an urgent problem, like if you have new symptoms, feel sick or have a wound, be sure to share that information with the office staff so they can correctly prioritize you in the schedule. Many primary care practices offer same-day sick appointments – and if your needs are urgent, they will recommend you seek care at an urgent care facility or the emergency department.
If you are generally feeling well and looking to make an appointment to receive a checkup from your doctor, ask for an annual physical or physical exam. If you take any prescription medications that require an annual physical to be renewed, be sure to account for that when discussing scheduling needs with office staff.
If you need a referral from your primary care doctor to see a specialist, tell the office staff.
Similarly, if you are making an appointment with a specialist, be sure to have any referral information at the ready.

5. Ask about your options for care

If it is difficult to quickly get an in-person appointment, or your schedule conflicts with the doctor’s immediate availability, ask the office staff what options are available to you. Many practices offer telehealth visits to ensure everyone has the access to care that they need.
Also, practices designated as patient-centered medical homes by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan offer 24/7 access to medical professionals. After-hours, doctors are available at these practices to lend their expertise over the phone on urgent health questions.

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