Below are answers to frequently asked questions about visiting your primary care physician.
- How far in advance should I make routine follow-up appointments or routine check-ups?
This depends on your particular physician and practice, but generally you should schedule non-urgent visits 3-6 months in advance. How frequently you require "check-ups" or "physicals," or if you require them at all, is something you should discuss with your doctor. You can make routine appointments in person at the office, by phone, or online via our online patient portal, myPennMedicine.org.
- How do I reach my doctor if I have an acute problem or question?
Our nurses have been trained to answer many of your questions and handle all sick calls. If you are unable to reach someone immediately, we will return your phone call as soon as possible. We try to minimize physician interruptions during office hours except for true medical emergencies. Nurses and doctors communicate throughout the day and nurses will relay information to the doctor and return your call if it requires their input.
If you require an office visit and your physician is unable to see you within an appropriate time frame, you may be scheduled with another provider (MD, NP, or RN).
Nurses handle most non-urgent issues. In addition to calling the office, you may also use myPennMedicine.org to get updates about home blood pressure checks, questions about how to take a medicine, clarification about instructions from your doctor, or non-urgent questions about test results.
- How do I reach my doctor if I have an urgent need at night or on the weekend?
For any medical emergency, call 911 immediately. If you do not require immediate medical attention, but you have an urgent question or need, call your doctor's office phone number and the call center will page your physician on weeknights or the on-call physician over the weekend.
- What do I do if I cannot make my appointment?
As soon as you know you will not be able to make your appointment, please call to cancel so another patient can be scheduled in your place.
- How do I request a refill for a medication?
You can request refills during office visits, by calling your doctor's office and following the prompts for the refill line, or by requesting one online through myPennMedicine.org. You should allow 72 hours for your prescription refill to be called in, faxed, or e-mailed to your pharmacy or mail-order company. When requesting a refill, please include name of medicine, dose, and whether or not you would like a 30 or 90-day supply. Certain medications may require that you pick up a paper prescription in the office.
You should allow seven business days for medications that require prior authorizations (this is generally requested directly by the pharmacist).
- How and when will I be notified about test results?
If you have an account on myPennMedicine.org, test results will be available in 1-2 weeks, depending on the test. Alternatively, your health care provider may communicate your results to you by letter or a phone call.
Abnormal results should be communicated to you within a week. Normal results should be expected within three weeks. If you have a concern about a particular test and have not heard about the result after three weeks please call the office to inquire.
- What are some of the types of staff members I may encounter during my office visit?
Patient Service Representative (PSR): PSRs are usually your first contact with a Penn practice. They answer all phone calls, check you in and out, schedule and change appointments and collect your co-pay. When you call the office, the PSR will send your message to the appropriate doctor, nurse, medical assistant, or manager. They can also provide information to help with scheduling appointments for specialists or diagnostic tests.
Medical Assistants (MA): MAs are responsible for taking you from the waiting room to exam room, checking your vital signs, and reviewing your medications. They assist the nurse practitioners and physicians with office procedures and perform tests such as EKGs, blood sugar checks and urine studies.
Nurses: Registered Nurses (RNs) and Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs): RNs are trained to perform a variety of duties including prioritizing and managing sick calls, refilling medications, and seeing patients for blood pressure checks or uncomplicated acute needs. They also administer vaccines, provide patient teaching, fill out forms and medication prior authorizations and relay results or messages to patients. Nurses work collaboratively with physicians and each physician has a specific nurse assigned to him/her.
Nurse Practitioners (NPs): NPs function as primary care providers who take health histories, perform physical exams, diagnose and treat patients with acute medical problems and collaborate with physicians in managing chronic illnesses such as hypertension or diabetes. You may see a nurse practitioner for an urgent visit, or for a continuing care visit to address chronic illness.