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Do you need to learn how to see a doctor in the United States?

Learn how to find a doctor, make an appointment, and talk to medical staff. See what you need to do if you need an interpreter

Many communities have health centers or clinics that have primary care providers or medical services. You can ask neighbors and friends who they recommend. You can ask your resettlement office or a guide to help you find a primary care provider who is your GP.

You can use FindHello to find healthcare providers. Many of these centers provide services to refugees and other newcomers and those without insurance.

What if I have an emergency?

If you have a life-threatening emergency, you should go to the emergency department of your local hospital or call 911.

For medical cases that are not emergency, but you need a doctor immediately, you can go to emergency care clinics or clinics that do not require an appointment.

For other health problems, common illnesses, or for checkups or vaccinations, you should make an appointment with your primary care physician.

How do I make an appointment to see a doctor?

You should make an appointment to see a doctor. You can make an appointment by calling the doctor’s office. If you are worried about your English, you can get help from a friend or acquaintance to call or go to the doctor’s office. You can also ask for an interpreter from the doctor’s office to help you communicate when you call.

Find your insurance card before calling
The doctor’s office will ask you for information. Your health insurance information (if you have insurance) is on your insurance card.

Member ID (this number is usually a series of numbers and letters on the card)
The name of the company whose insurance you have
Your insurance registration date
(If you do not have this information available, you can call your insurance company first and they will be able to give you this information over the phone and you can write it down.)

When you call the doctor’s office


When someone picks up the phone at the doctor’s office, tell them that you need to find a doctor and make an appointment. You need to explain when you want to take it. If you need to find an interpreter for you, you should ask here for help.

Someone at the doctor’s office will ask you questions about yourself and your health insurance. They will make an appointment for you. If this is the right time for you, you will answer them in the affirmative and your time will be set. If the time they give you is not right for you, let them know right away, and they will look for a better time for you.

Make a note of your doctor’s address, date, and time.

When your appointment is set, try to keep your time
Many doctors have very strict rules for canceling appointments, such that if a patient does not show up for a doctor’s appointment or cancels his or her appointment at the last minute, he or she must pay for a doctor’s appointment.

Cancel your doctor’s appointment
If you have to cancel your doctor’s appointment, call them two days in advance. Even one day ahead or the same day as the doctor is better than not calling at all. If you call your doctor at least one day ahead of time, you will avoid paying for the cancellation fee.

Go to your doctor on time


Go to your doctor’s appointment, either sooner or on time. Usually, before going to the office, you need to fill out a series of forms. If you do not know what to write on these forms, you can ask a friend, acquaintance, or office clerk for help.

Remember that if you arrive too late for your doctor’s appointment, your appointment may be given to someone else and you may not be able to see your doctor. Try not to be late!

What to bring with you on the day


Bring your insurance card and the payment method you need
Bring a list of medications you use
Make a list of the allergies you are aware of
Keep notes of what you learned from the doctor and bring them with you
Sheet and pen if you want to write something down

How do I talk to a doctor?


Here are some tips for communicating with your doctor

Take notes
Keep notes of what you learned from the doctor and bring them with you when you visit your healthcare provider. During the visit, you can write down what you learn. You may want to bring a friend or family member to take notes. This way you can focus on the answers your doctor gives to your questions.

ask
Do not be embarrassed to try to repeat something. You can also ask your doctor to write a summary of your visit and information about the medications you should take. You can later ask a friend to translate that information for you to make sure you understand everything correctly. If you still have questions after leaving the office, you can call your doctor’s office nurse.

Learn more
Your doctor may make a diagnosis, which is to find a specific disease that you have. Make sure you understand why they are diagnosed and ask them to suggest resources that will help you learn more about the disease.

Be honest
To make a diagnosis, your doctor will ask you questions about your current and past health history. It is very important that you answer these questions honestly and accurately. The information you provide determines the direction of care you receive.

Make sure you understand everything
At the end of your visit, make sure you understand the next steps. Your doctor may tell you that you do not need to see your doctor again, or he or she may ask you to see him or her sooner or refer you to a specialist for further treatment.

If you are unsure about the next step, ask to be explained again. You can also request that the schedule and dates of future appointments be written for you. Do not forget to get the office phone number so that you can call them if you have any questions after returning home.

Ask for help when you need it
Like a doctor’s office, if you go to the hospital for treatment, you need to understand your care plan. Hospitals have many staff members who perform different tasks, but you will be assigned a doctor or special caregiver. This person will eventually be responsible for your care and you should get to know him / her. A nurse will also be assigned to you. Nurses are great resources and you can easily ask any question you have.

Reminders of important things

  1. Find a primary care provider. This person will be your main doctor and usually the first person you go to when you get sick.
  2. If you must see a doctor, make sure they are in your insurance network so that your insurer can pay for that visit. This will help you to avoid heavy bills that you did not expect.
  3. Carry your insurance card with you every time you visit a doctor or pharmacy.
  4. If you are taking medication, always bring a list of medication names with you.

Language access


You have the right to easily communicate with your doctor. If you or a family member has a language problem at the doctor’s office, you can always ask for an interpreter. Most doctor’s offices and hospitals are able to find you an in-person or telephone interpreter who can help you.

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