Want to follow up with your doctor post visit? An expert shares how to get the most value post-appointment

Medically reviewed on September 21, 2022 by Morgan Spicer, Medical Communications Manager. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.

Dr. Carl Streed Jr, MD, MPH, is an Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Boston University School of Medicine, who has chaired the American Medical Association Advisory Committee on LGBTQ Issues and served on the board of GLMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBTQ Equality. In addition to being a primary care clinician, Dr. Streed is the Research Lead for the Center for Transgender Medicine and Surgery at Boston Medical Center and collaborates with researchers, clinicians, and staff to assess and address the health and well-being of transgender and gender diverse individuals.

It goes like this: You’ve spent the time preparing for your upcoming doctor’s appointment and know what you’d like to discuss with your provider. The visit goes smoothly and you feel like you’re on the same page with your provider’s care plan. It’s not until you’re reviewing your appointment notes later on that another question comes to mind — one that you’d wish you brought up earlier and now you’re wondering how to get the answers you’re looking for.

Sure, those “how did I forget that?!” moments can be frustrating. But it’s a reminder that your experience doesn’t end when you leave your healthcare provider's office. Following up after appointments is a key piece of the patient care journey and you should absolutely feel empowered in seeking out answers to additional questions or resources to get the most out of your visit.

In continuation of our patient advocacy editorial series, we spoke with Dr. Carl Streed Jr, MD, MPH, to better understand how to best navigate concerns or questions post-appointment. Below are some ways you can make the most of your post-appointment follow up:

Do healthcare providers follow up, or does the patient initiate communication if needed?

Dr. Streed: “All follow up is to be discussed before ending a clinical encounter. Some prefer to hear from their clinician for any testing results, even when they are normal, and they should let their clinician know this as well as the mode in which they’d like to receive follow up (e.g., phone call, letter in the mail, patient portal). Many patients do not feel the need for follow up of normal or negative testing results and are satisfied just having access to the results, whether that’s a letter in the mail or through a patient portal.”

If someone has additional questions after an appointment, what should they do?

Dr. Streed: “If a patient would like more information, regardless of whether the clinician has already followed up or not, the patient should feel comfortable reaching out to the clinic. Often, many questions can be answered by other staff, such as a triage nurse or medical assistant. If a clinical question requires a clinician to answer, the clinic staff can notify the clinician and provide the best contact method for the patient to ensure the patient receives the follow up they desire.”

If my test results came back as normal but my symptoms haven’t improved, should I schedule another appointment with my doctor?

Dr. Streed: “Whenever test results are normal or negative but symptoms persist, you should be sure to follow up with your clinician in a timely fashion. Many times, you will have had a conversation with your clinician at the initial visit to determine the best time to follow up (e.g., “if symptoms haven’t started to improve in 5 days, call the clinic again”).

If symptoms are unchanged or have worsened, it’s best to contact the clinic and be evaluated again. Additionally, following up when you have persistent symptoms with initial testing being normal (which typically helps diagnose the most common and/or most concerning issues) will allow for additional testing to be considered. A follow up will also allow for the clinician to consider alternative diagnoses or treatments as well as potential referrals to specialists.”

Everlywell makes lab testing easy and convenient with at-home collection and digital results in days. Learn More