How to Schedule a Doctor’s Appointment in the US

You woke up with a sore throat, you can’t seem to pull yourself out of bed and your head is pounding. Although you have a busy day of classes ahead of you, it’s starting to happen: you’re getting sick. Luckily, you purchased health insurance coverage before you even arrived in the US, which means you can visit the doctor and feel better in no time. However, visiting the doctor in a new country is easier said than done. If you’re not sure how to schedule a doctor’s appointment in the US, or how to even find a doctor, following these steps can help simplify the process:

It might sound basic, but the very first step is to know what plan you have. Gather your insurance policy documents and insurance ID card as these will state the name of the insurance plan, the insurance carrier, and your insurance ID number. Insurance policy documents are often emailed, so if you didn’t print your documents upon purchase or request to receive them through mail, checking your email inbox for this information is a good place to start.

After you have gathered your plan documents, if you’re not sure what’s covered on your plan- now is the time to check. You can do this by calling the insurance company directly. When calling the insurance company make sure you reference your insurance ID number on your policy documents.

If your plan uses a PPO (Preferred Provider Organization) then you will have a list of “in-network” providers to choose from. This list will include hospitals, urgent care clinics, specialists and family doctors, and can typically be found by visiting the insurance company’s website or your insurance agent’s website directly. Before you can find a doctor and make an appointment, you must first know what type of provider is appropriate for your situation. Inside the United States minor illnesses and injuries are taken care of by scheduling a doctor’s appointment or by visiting a walk-in clinic. The emergency room is only utilized in instances of a true emergency, and will often include an additional fee. HMO (Health Maintenance Organization) plans require that you have one primary care physician that you visit. Unless it’s an emergency, this physician will need to issue you a referral if additional treatment is needed.

Learn more about Insurance Provider Networks here

Additional tip: If you have purchased the Student Health plan or the Travel Medical plan you can find the in-network provider list here. If you purchased the Student Health Advantage plan, the Patriot Travel plan, or the Global Medical plan you can find an in-network provider here.

The next step is to call the doctor directly and schedule your appointment. If your plan uses a PPO, when calling the provider, it’s important to let them know what network your plan is a part of. For example, if you have the Student Health plan you will want to tell the office that your plan is a part of the First Health Provider Network. The name of the network your plan uses can be found within your plan documents or on your insurance ID card.

Additional Tip: The name of your health insurance plan is not the same as the provider network. Keep in mind that you will need to know the specific network when scheduling your appointment.

Make sure you print and bring your insurance ID card with you to your doctor’s appointment. When you arrive at the provider’s office show them your insurance ID card when checking in.

Depending on your plan, you may need to pre-authorize treatment with the insurance company in certain instances, like surgery. This can be done at the time of verifying your coverage, or you can ask your provider to pre-authorize coverage prior to the procedure during your visit.

The claim process can vary from one health insurance plan to the next. However, you can find a good guide to help you through the process of submitting an insurance claim here.

If you still don’t have a plan, you can purchase any of our plans available to you:

Student Secure Student Health Atlas Travel Patriot Travel
Student Health Insurance Student Health Advantage Student Health Insurance Student Health Advantage
Learn more Learn more Learn more Learn more

If you have questions about how to choose an insurance plan that best suits your needs or would like to know more about your plan with us, feel free to contact us!

Posted by Bryanna Davis

Bryanna joined International Student Insurance in 2011 after returning to the United States from teaching English in China. Her interest in international education, sparked initially by her own study abroad experience in Wales, led her to the company. Bryanna is originally from Missouri and is a graduate from the University of Central Missouri.

36 thoughts on “How to Schedule a Doctor’s Appointment in the US”

Roslyn millard says:

I need to on when is my apptment for this week i did the date in time

Roslyn millard says:

Can you have someone to call me

Hi Roslyn,

Thanks for your blog comment. We can only assist you with your health insurance questions. If you’d like to contact us please call us at +1.904.758.4391 Monday-Friday 8am-6pm EST or you can email us at

Please let us know if you have any other questions.

Nakita says:

I need to set up dr appointment

Hi Nakita,

Thanks for your comment. Please contact the provider directly to set up an appointment. If it’s urgent, we would recommend going to an Urgent Care clinic as these clinics don’t require an appointment.

Best of luck!

Ashley Maxwell says:

I really like how you said that a doctor should be able to let you schedule an appointment or walk-in if needed. I also like how you said that you should have medical coverage. My husband and I are considering looking into doctors that we could walk-in to if needed.

Hi Ashley,
For non-emergency medical care that you need attention for (examples would be the flu, a cold, and minor injuries and illnesses), please visit a local doctor, urgent care center or walk-in medical clinic. Providers can typically be located using an online provider search tool. Doctors will require an appointment, while clinics may let you walk in for immediate assistance. Please note: Do not go to the emergency room if it is not a true emergency, as an illness that is not admitted will be subject to an additional deductible. I have sent you an email to provide you with more information about our plans available for you and your husband.
Please let us know if you have any questions!

Emeka Moses says:

Please how do I book a medical appointment am in nigeria,i have a slipped intervertebral disc which i have been managing for a while but i need a surgery but un ny country we dont have the facilities required to carry out the operation please guide me though i dont have a valid usa visa but i can start the application process

Hello Emeka,

Thanks for your blog comment. Unfortunately, we cannot assist you with setting a doctor’s appointment in Nigeria as we are not familiar with their medical system. If you have an insurance from that country, you may contact them and they might be able to guide you. You may also apply for a US visitor visa (B1/B2) for medical treatment. You can find more information about this process here.

Best of luck!

Arya Smith says:

It really helped when you mentioned that we should be able to identify the type of care we need. I think that is important to really go to the right doctor. This will be very helpful to my sister because she has been worried about her child who usually experiences a nosebleed every day.

Hi Arya,

Thanks for your comment. Please contact the provider directly to set up an appointment. If it’s urgent, we would recommend going to an Urgent Care clinic as these clinics don’t require an appointment.

Best of luck!

Request for guidence for heart surgery in America says:

Dear Sir,
My father is heart patient & doctor recommended angioplasty procedure 2004 in PIC(Punjab Institute of Cardiology Lahore Pakistan)Dr inserted two stent during angioplasty, more than 3 weeks ago he felt pain in his chest , he went to Hospital for checkup and DR did his angiography & other tests ,now they want to replace his stent. .According to my father’s Dr he has two options one is Bypass & second is replacement of stents by angioplasty procedure. My father age is more than 50 years i do not want to take any risk ,you are requested to kindly guide me in this regard. I can afford treatment of my father in abroad,


Hi Abdullah,

Thanks for your comment. If your father has health insurance, I would recommend that you contact them and confirm the benefits with his insurance. They’ll be able to help you find a doctor and guide you through the process. If your father doesn’t have a health insurance, the best course of action would be for him to go back home and have the procedure done in his home country as it will be very expensive in the US. You can also contact the hospital and ask if they could workout a payment plan for you. However, depending on the price of the procedure, the hospital may or may not be able to help you in this way.

Best of luck!

Yang says:

Hi, I have just been in the US for less than a month, and I am not familiar with the process get a primary care physician. my question is if I can only appoint one physician as my PCP? or I can appoint a bunch of physicians so I can schedule the appointment with one of the PCPs in a short time as long as anyone of them is available.

Hi Yang,

Thanks for your comment. You can contact any PCP and they will let you know if they are accepting new patients or not. If they are, they’ll ask you for your health insurance information so be sure to have that in hand.

Best of luck!

Hey says:

Hello ? I want to known if in yr hospital they are eye plastic surgery doctors ?

Second how to get appointment

For foreign how have not medical insurance for USA can use the own means

Hello Hey,

Thanks for your comment. In order to better assist you with a recommendation, we will need more information. I have followed up with an email with some of our options.

Best of luck!

Alec Heesacker says:

I Need A Doctor Appointment As To Treat My Tension Headache Seizure Episodes, Because This Tension Headache’s Causing My Unrelieved Stressful Seizure Episodes Within My Autism Brain And I Have No Control Over It!

Hi Alec,

I’m very sorry to hear that. Please call the phone number in the back of your ID card and they’d be happy to help you find a doctor or hospital. They are available 24/7.

Best of luck!

Anand says:

American insurance systems are great, But appointment and wait for appointment for fever, by the time fever might gone. They always ask to next appointment looking some test and test …. again next appointment. treat well and they make you will go to home with question what if i have something (health anxiety).(more money in a day to week to month)

Indian system insurance or no insurance, no appointment, you can wait and see doctor based on crowd and money. Still all the test are done in a day, at least you will go happy and clear mind to home. (more money in a day)

Hi Anand,

Thank you for your blog comment. It’s true that the US healthcare system is very different than in other parts of the world. To better understand how this system works, we’ve created a US healthcare system overview video that gives you a better idea on how to navigate it:

Best of luck!

Anti Aging says:

How can you even set an appointment if you are sick.. you can’t schedule your sickness.. will they even entertain you concert if you just walk in the clinic?

Hi Anti,

Thanks for your comment. If you experience a minor illness such as a cold, you can just walk into an urgent care center without the need to make an appointment! They have general physicians available to see you and are able to treat a wide range of illnesses and injuries. I would recommend viewing our US Healthcare system video for more information about how and where to seek medical treatment in the US

Best of luck!

Promzy says:

I got my insurance card with blue cross Massachusetts. Can I schedule my doctor appointment online!!! The only free chance I have is on weekends and it seems my primary care doctor work on weekends so what should I do

Hello Promzy,

Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, we can only give you advice on our health insurance plans. If you need to make a doctor’s appointment, we recommend that you contact your health insurance provider directly for assistance.

Best of luck.

Promzy says:

I mean my primary care doctor don’t work on weekends

Vanessa says:

What if the person you are setting the appointment up for is not a US citizen? What is the simplest way to set up an appointment for this person since i’m not 18 years of age?

Hello Vanessa,

Thanks for your comment. Generally, when going to a doctor’s office and mentioning that the patient is an international student, that should be enough to make an appointment!If the student has a sponsor or guardian, they could also help with setting up a doctor’s appointment on their behalf.

Best of luck!

Michael Obazee says:

I’m a Nigerian Dentist and would like to know how best to book an appointment for my pregnant wife to deliver our first baby in a United States.Thanks in anticipation of your help.

Hello Michael,

Thanks for your comment. In order to make an appointment at a hospital, you must either go to the provider or call the provider (hospital) directly to make the appointment for your wife.

Best of luck!

Megan Adler says:

I like that you said that if you have insurance you can find a doctor from the list of in-network providers. I’m going to be moving to another town and I need to find a doctor for my family. Once I’m settled in I’ll call my insurance company so that they can provide a list of the medical centers and doctors available.

hub says:

For a minor illness, such as a cold, flu, fever, or a sore throat, you should visit a physician or an urgent care. Before you visit a doctor’s office, an appointment needs to be scheduled first. In many parts of the US, you just can’t walk into the doctor’s office and expect to be treated. You will have to schedule an appointment first. Urgent care facilities are walk in clinics, but there may be a short wait, it’s best to check before you go to shorten the time spent waiting.

Roman M says:

Great information about doctor treatment.I also have some problems with my ear and throat and was showing to an ent in great neck ny and I do accept as true with that you have to show yourself to a particular expert for you trouble, in preference to displaying to a ordinary clinical medical doctor.

PatientMD Healthcare says:

helpful article for those who need to schedule doctor appointments.

suburban wellness says:

the nice written article, thanks for sharing information.

Larry Weaver says:

Thanks for the tip to gather insurance documents when preparing to go to the doctor. I have been feeling unwell and dizzy for the past few days. I’ll start gathering my insurance documents as I schedule a medical checkup.

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