Patient Tips: Healthcare Provider Appointments for Long COVID

Patient Tips: Healthcare Provider Appointments for Long COVID
Updated Mar. 14, 2024
What You Need to Know
  • Long COVID can be a complex medical condition. Resources are available.
  • Preparing for an appointment can make a difference in your evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment.
  • To help get the most out of appointments for Long COVID, download the Healthcare Appointment Checklist | Español [PDF – 72 KB].
  • Try to arrive early or, for a telehealth visit, log on a few minutes ahead of the appointment. Make sure to complete the health history questionnaire and other paperwork before your appointment.
  • After visiting your healthcare provider, review your notes to prepare for your next appointment.

Before Your Appointment

If you think you or a loved one may have Long COVID, taking a few steps to prepare for your visit with a healthcare provider can make a difference in getting a helpful medical evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment. You play a vital role in helping healthcare providers understand your or your family member’s symptoms and how they affect daily life. Long COVID is defined as new or persistent symptoms occurring 4 or more weeks after acute infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

List Your Healthcare Providers

  • Prepare a list of your current and past healthcare providers and your current and past medical conditions, especially if you are seeing a new healthcare provider.

Write Down Your History

  • Prepare a brief history that summarizes your experience with COVID-19 and post-COVID conditions. For example, write down a list of the symptoms you think started after your COVID-19 infection, and include this information:
    • The date your original COVID-19 illness started and/or you got a positive COVID-19 test, if known
    • When your Long COVID symptoms started
    • A list of prior treatments and diagnostic tests related to your Long COVID symptoms (blood work, x-rays, etc.)
    • What makes your symptoms worse
    • How the symptoms affect your activities, including challenges that affect daily living, working, attending school, etc.
    • How often symptoms occur
    • How you have been feeling
    • A description of some of your best and worst days

Select your most important issues (sometimes referred to as “chief complaints”) and write them down.

List Your Medications

  • Prepare a list of medications and supplements you are taking, including dose and frequency. Most healthcare providers will ask you to provide this information at each appointment. Bringing your list or the medication containers with you will help keep track.

Talk with a Family Member or Friend

  • Consider discussing your appointment with a trusted family member or friend immediately before and after you see your healthcare provider. This person can help you take notes and remember what was discussed at the appointment while it’s still fresh in your mind. If your healthcare provider’s office policy allows it, consider bringing them to your appointment with you.

What to Expect

The provider you meet with could be a doctor, nurse, nurse practitioner, physician assistant, or other type of healthcare professional. It may take more than one appointment to evaluate potential Long COVID symptoms and determine a helpful diagnosis to better manage and treat your symptoms. Your provider may ask questions about your medical history, current symptoms, and quality of life. Depending on your symptoms, they may run or order tests to determine a diagnosis and plan for treatment.

Healthcare providers are still learning about Long COVID. CDC continues to work to determine how common these long-term effects are, who is most likely to get them, how long the symptoms typically last, and whether symptoms eventually go away.

Healthcare providers are still learning about post-COVID conditions. CDC continues to work to determine how common these long-term effects are, who is most likely to get them, how long the symptoms typically last, and whether symptoms eventually resolve.

During Your Appointment

On the day of your appointment, try to arrive a little early or, for telemedicine appointments, call in or log on a few minutes ahead of the appointment. If your provider is running late, you can use the time to make sure your paperwork or forms have been filled out and the front desk has your correct information. The list below can help you during your appointment.

Bring Your List of Concerns

  • Since appointment time is often limited, it will help to make a list of why you are coming in for an appointment. Start with your most concerning issues (sometimes called “chief complaints”).
  • Focus on talking to your provider because this can be the most valuable part of the visit.

Ask & Answer Questions

  • Ask questions, starting with the most important ones. Don’t hesitate to ask your healthcare provider to explain their answers if they are not clear to you.
  • Be prepared to discuss your activity levels, what activities make your illness worse, and any medications that seem to make your symptoms better or worse.
  • Answer the provider’s questions. Explain how you feel. Be straightforward, and don’t be embarrassed to talk about anything.
  • Let your provider know if there have been any changes to your prescribed medications and supplements.

Know Your Next Steps

  • Make sure you understand the next steps. Use a notebook or your phone to take notes and write down instructions. Repeat back what the provider has told you to check for understanding. (For example, you might ask: “So, I should go to the lab next week with this paperwork to get my blood drawn?”). Other questions could include:
    • Will I need more tests?
    • When and how will I get test results?
    • When should I return for another visit?

Ask for a Summary

  • Ask for an appointment summary. You can also ask the provider to write down any instructions, medication names, etc., for you. If there are changes to your treatment plan, make sure you understand what to do. For new medication, ask why it is being given and what you should expect by taking this new medication.

After Your Appointment

If you have been diagnosed with or are waiting to hear back from your provider about a Long COVID diagnosis, reviewing your appointment notes and preparing for your next one can help you get the most out of your appointments.

Track Your Appointments

  • Make appointments for follow up and any additional testing.
  • Record future appointments on your calendar. Ask a friend or family member to put the appointment(s) on their calendars as well. Ask the provider’s office if they will call or email you with an appointment reminder.

Work with Your Healthcare Provider

  • If you are confused or don’t remember something your provider said, call the provider’s office for clarification.
  • Follow your provider’s instructions as closely as you can.

Document Your Experiences

  • Continue to record symptoms in a journal, if possible. Some people with Long COVID find it helpful to include:
    • whether symptoms have improved
    • which treatments have improved symptoms
    • any side effects
    • any other new symptoms or changes
  • Make a note to give your healthcare provider feedback about how recommended treatments have worked for you.
  • Write down any issues you did not have time to talk about at the last appointment.
  • Keep track of medications, vitamins, herbs, supplements, and over-the-counter drugs you take, using a current medications and supplements list.
  • Remind your provider to share any test results if you don’t get them within the expected timeframe.

Review the Healthcare Appointment Checklist