For starters, set reminders on your phone.
doctor appointment date on calendar
Credit: Carol Yepes / Getty Images

Visiting with your doctor is necessary to keep up with your health year round. At a minimum, Dr. Fahmi Farah, MD, the owner of Bentley Heart Center in Fort Worth, Texas, a heart surgeon at Baylor Scott & White All Saints Medical Center, and the co-founder of the Global Health Alliance Foundation, says to schedule a session with your general practitioner ever year. "It's dependent on gender and age group, but at the very least, everyone should have one appointment with their primary care physician (their annual physical examination) with a thorough examination and lab work," she says. "For [females], this also involves a well-woman exam." Those living with risk factors, like hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, or other preexisting heart conditions, should also schedule appointments with their cardiologist annually. "It's individualized depending on what people have," adds Dr. Farah. After speaking with your doctor and better understanding your health conditions, you'll need to keep track of the appointments you have throughout the year. Ahead, several expert-approved methods for staying organized.

Take note of your appointments in advance.

In this digital age, look to your phone to keep track of your health appointments during the year. "I really think the best way to go about it is to put the appointments on your calendar and you can set the reminder for a couple of days in advance, 24 hours prior, and then two hours before your appointment time," Dr. Farah suggests. Otherwise, she recommends jotting down your appointment on paper. "Writing it down and putting it on your refrigerator is a long-term solution in case you lose or misplace your phone," she says, adding to lean on your doctor offices, too, as many provide notifications. "My office, for example, provides an email reminder that automatically goes out to the patients [when you schedule the appointment]. Then, the day before, they get another reminder through either text or call."

Reschedule when necessary.

If you need to cancel a session for any reason, the best mode of action is to call your doctor's office—you can often reschedule it in that moment. Otherwise, you can do so online, since most practices have a patient portal that allows you to make changes. "Offices will have their own set of rules, so to speak, as to how long of a window they will give," Dr. Farah says of canceling an appointment. "Different specialties will use different time frames. "At my office, we have a 24-hour notice. The reason for that is most offices are busy and trying to get patients off their waitlist, so the spot doesn't go unfilled."

Keep track of your records.

Have your medical records handy whenever necessary. Dr. Farah recommends simply carrying a folder with hard copies of lab results, medical tests, and any other documents. You can let your doctor's office know that you want a copy, and they can print one out for you. Plus, "the majority of medical results, like lab results, for example, will be available to the patient through the digital portal," she says, so you will have access to them that way. If you move, you can still reach out to your doctor if you need those records. "Offices communicate with each other, so all a patient must do is let the previous doctor's office know that they have moved," Dr. Farah says. "Because of HIPAA, the privacy law, we do need to have the patient's permission and a written and signed medical release record for us to be able to send it anywhere." Once you give your new doctor the go-ahead, the previous office can send all of the medical records electronically to the new one.


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