How to make the most of your orthopedic patient appointment at SOS: Nine steps to success

Congratulations, you have an appointment to see one of the providers at SOS! Whether you are scheduled to see one of our surgeons, or a midlevel provider, you will want to make the most of the visit. Just like many things in life, the key to success is preparation. Your total face-to-face time with the clinician is limited. By preparing ahead, you can make the most of the time you do have with us.

After twenty years of seeing patients in the office I have developed a mental list of common patient mistakes that cause frustration upon arrival. Today I’m putting it all down in writing in hopes that your next visit with us can exceed your expectations.

1) Confirm your appointment date, time and location
Nothing is as frustrating as missing the appointment you’ve been anticipating due to a simple error in scheduling. Sometimes you didn’t make the appointment, someone else did it for you. So double check the details. We can send you notices in email and by text if we have your correct contact information. Also be aware of the location. SOS has ten different clinical sites around Syracuse. Confirm your location and know how to get there. The appointment may be in an office that’s different from others you’ve visited before. The doctors do move around. Also pay attention to weather and traffic conditions that day. Plan ahead. You don't want to be late.

2) Arrive early
The appointment time you have is the expected time that you will see the provider. Ok, I know we sometimes run behind (bring a book) but don’t plan on that. You never know, we could be on time that day! There is a check-in and registration process that can take some time. This is particularly true for new patients. I recommend arriving at least 15 minutes before your listed appointment time. Longer if you think you will need extra time with the forms. (Or fill them out at least a day before you arrive here!)If you arrive late you risk missing your appointment all together. Once your time slot has passed we move on to other scheduled patients. Different doctors have different policies for how to deal with late arrivals. In some cases, if there is a later open spot or cancellation in the day we can move you into it. But that is rare. Likely you will be rescheduled for another day. So, please don’t be late! Repeated late arrivals or no-show visits may result in a financial penalty or formal discharge from SOS care.

3) Use our online tools to streamline the registration process
Visit to complete your patient forms at least 1 business day prior to your appointment. Doing this work ahead of time is highly beneficial and allows you upon arrival, to only focus on the reason why you are coming in: your health concerns.

4) Organize your health information in advance
Before you see the SOS surgeon or midlevel provider one of our nurses will place you in an exam room and begin the process of obtaining or updating your medical history. Here’s where a little preparation really pays off. We will want to know about any medical problems you are being treated for and by whom. We will want a list of all the medicines and supplements that you take including the doses and frequency. Are you allergic to any medications and what is the reaction? Have you had any surgeries? If so, what surgery? Where and when was it done and by whom? We will ask you about the history of the specific problem that brings you in. What is the problem? When did it start? Was there an injury? If so, was it work related? What is the specific date of the injury or accident? Who else have you seen about the condition. What treatments have you already had for it and what have been the results?

The more time you take to organize this in advance the faster and more accurate the intake process will be. Patients often get anxious in the office and may forget things that they might have remembered if otherwise preparing at home in a more relaxed environment. It is highly recommended that you organize and write all this down on a piece of paper which you can then hand to us to put into your record. Of course, then you need to know where the paper is. You don’t want to be rummaging in your belongings for the written list or bag of pill bottles while your appointment time vanishes.

5) Organize your diagnostic information
Before coming in to see us at SOS most patients have already had some work-up of the problem in question. Perhaps your doctor ordered x-rays or blood work. Maybe you visited and emergency room or urgent care and they performed tests. Have you had an MRI, CT scan or nerve conduction studies done elsewhere? Is there a discharge summary from a recent hospital or ER admission? Being able to access and view all of the above information is critical to our ability to help you. While it is true that sometimes referring doctors will send us this information, they do not always do it on time. You may have been told that SOS will be able to electronically access your results and so there’s no need to bring copies to the appointment. Yes, there is a New York State system for doing this, but can be cumbersome and unreliable. So don’t assume it will work when you arrive. While not mandatory, it is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED that you bring paper copies of any lab results and radiology tests. When possible, bring us a disc containing digital files of your actual images. This is the ONLY way you will be certain that we have what we need and your valuable appointment time won’t be consumed by us searching for missing information. I can’t stress this enough. Take charge of organizing your prior tests and imaging. Please bring them to us in person.

6) Organize your questions
I start every patient encounter exactly the same way. “How can I help you?” And then I just listen for a while.
Patients get nervous when seeing doctors. Even really nice ones like us! It’s just human nature. When you get nervous you forget things. So take a tip from the seniors. Write everything down. Make list of the things you want to tell the doctor. Make a list of questions you’d like answered. And then, of course, don't forget your list! Sometimes people hand us the list and others will read from it. This is the best way to be sure every concern you have is addressed. I promise you, we will take the time to be sure everything is covered.

7) Be sure you understand what we have told you about your diagnosis and treatment options
This goes back to the part about being nervous and forgetful under stress. There is a high likelihood that you will have been given an explanation about your medical condition. Be sure you understand what you have been told and write it down so you can do more research later. Ask your doctor for written or online resources to learn more about your condition and options. I end every patient visit in exactly the same way. “Do you have any other questions for me?” At least twice a day someone answers, “Is that your real hair?” Come in some time, you’ll see why.

8) Be sure you understand your follow up instructions
In some cases after your visit there will be no need for further follow-up, referrals or testing. But that is not usually the case. Frequently, you will need additional testing, scheduling, referrals to another doctor or a return visit to us. Occasionally we will be able to do the scheduling on the spot and other times you will need to wait for insurance authorizations or something else. Our scheduling department will be sure to follow through with you on this but before you go please be sure you know what to expect.

If you have been prescribed any medications we typically call that in directly to your preferred pharmacy. You may be given a physical therapy prescription and then in most cases it will be up to you to schedule that on your own. If you live locally we will give you a list of SOS therapy locations.

You may be given a follow-up visit to go over results or check on your progress. Look at the appointment carefully. It may not be with the same provider or at the same location where you were just seen.

9) Leave us feedback
Everyone loves praise when they do a good job. The same is true for us. If you had a good SOS experience please be sure to tell us and tell the world too. You can leave us feedback on We have a SOS Facebook page too. National healthcare rating services exist as well. Healthgrades and WebMD are popular examples. Of course, if your appointment didn’t go so well we’d like to hear about that also. We read all the feedback and do pay attention to what you say. Please try to be specific in your comments, for better or worse.

Well that’s all there is to it. Nine simple steps. It can all be summarized by arrive early and be organized. Your face-to-face time with the SOS provider is extremely important to both of us. Let’s not waste it doing administrative work that could have been handled before arrival. We take these encounters very seriously and want them to be productive and totally satisfying for you.

Wishing you good health.

Dr. Warren Wulff, MD
Syracuse Orthopedic Specialists