September 22, 2022
When illness strikes, a visit to a same-day sick clinic or urgent care can help identify the issue and get you the care you need. But heading to an unexpected appointment for you or your child can have you feeling anxious, distracted and disorganized. Before you know it, you’re on your way home with more questions than answers.
Staying focused with an unfamiliar clinician in a new setting while dealing with an illness or injury isn’t easy. But asking questions and getting the information you need during the visit is crucial and can help reduce anxiety and confusion after the appointment.
“It’s important to ask these questions while you’re with the doctor and nursing staff to get your questions answered promptly, in that moment, while the clinician is attentive and has that one-on-one time with you,” says Ashley Borgmeyer, practice manager at Mizzou Urgent Care.
To make the most of your visit — and get all your questions answered — remember to ask the 5 Ws and 1 H (a strategy you may remember from school). If you ask who, what, why, when, where and how, you’ll be breathing easier on the trip home.
WHO Will Contact Me With Results and WHO Should I See for Follow-Up?
Often, a sick visit includes some sort of swab, lab test or X-ray to get you answers. Knowing who will be in touch with results can save you a lot of time tracking that information down. If you don’t get the lab results when expected, you’ll know who to call for answers.
Asking “who” also applies to follow-up visits. Find out who to see if you or your little one has an infection or rash that may require an additional appointment. Should you follow up with the same-day clinic or your primary care provider?
WHAT Is the Diagnosis?
It’s easy to miss the actual diagnosis when you aren’t feeling well or are busy nurturing a sick child in the exam room. For instance, it may be clear your child has a respiratory illness that requires a breathing treatment on the spot, but knowing whether the illness is asthma, bronchiolitis (RSV), croup, or any other upper respiratory illness can make a big difference. Don’t be afraid to ask the provider point-blank what the diagnosis is so you can better understand how to care for it.
“Every patient or parent needs to be aware of the diagnosis, even if they’ve assessed you and everything is fine,” Borgmeyer says. Ask for a simple explanation if you don’t understand the diagnosis or why you’re being sent home without treatment. Understanding what’s going on may guide you in caring for the symptoms — and your nerves — once you get home.
WHY Is That the Diagnosis?
When you head to an urgent or quick care clinic, you may be convinced the diagnosis is strep throat, flu or some other recognizable condition — but that’s not always the case. If you don’t get the diagnosis you expect, finding out why can be helpful in the future.
Ask which symptoms or tests led to that diagnosis and how this illness differs from others like it. If your kid’s “pink eye” ends up being allergies, ask how you can tell the difference — it may save you a trip to urgent care next time.
WHEN Should I Expect to Get Better or Make Another Appointment?
You may leave the quick care clinic understanding what’s causing the symptoms and knowing the treatment plan. But anxiety can set in if you aren’t sure when to expect improvement.
Finding out when the condition should improve and what that improvement looks like will give you peace of mind. It will also guide you on when to become concerned or call for another appointment.
WHERE Do I Go if It Doesn’t Get Better or (Yikes) Gets Worse?
If symptoms show no improvement when they should be getting better, you may need more medical help. But it’s not always clear when to return to urgent care or when the symptoms require further evaluation in a specialty clinic or emergency room (ER).
“Don’t be afraid to ask what the criteria is for each location,” Borgmeyer says. “The goal is to understand when you should expect to see an improvement in symptoms or any concerning signs and symptoms that may require further evaluation.” Knowing where to go and what warrants an ER visit can save you time and money.
HOW Do I See Results and Clinic Notes, and HOW Is My Issue Being Treated?
If your visit required bloodwork or imaging (X-ray, ultrasound, CT scan, etc.), those results might not be available while you’re still at the clinic. But they’re important to have and reference later, especially if you follow up with your primary care provider or a specialist. Knowing where to find those results and any accompanying clinic notes can be helpful.
“Ask about the time frame for results and how you’ll be notified of the results. Some tests results are available online on our HEALTHConnect patient portal, while others require a phone call to discuss,” Borgmeyer says. “HEALTHConnect is also a great place to view recent test and imaging results as well as your provider’s notes on the visit. If you aren’t registered, ask how to do that while you’re there for your visit.”
Remember to also ask how your illness is being treated. Repeat the treatment plan back to the provider to ensure you understand it correctly. If your diagnosis requires a prescription, make sure you’re clear about what the medication is treating and how to take it. It’s also helpful to know if the prescription will be electronically sent to your pharmacy or requires a paper prescription.
Next Steps and Useful Resources
- Feeling sick? Check out our convenient care options.
- Don’t have a HEALTHConnect patient portal account? Sign up today.