Tips for Talking with Your Doctor

The doctor-patient relationship is a two way street. In order for you to receive the best care possible you need to be an active member of your health care team. Working in partnership, together with your provider, enables you to make the best decisions for your healthcare needs.

However, for this partnership to work, communication is key. Your healthcare team relies on you to communicate your needs and concerns just as you rely on them to deliver information back to you that you understand.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you don’t understand something, speak up. Your doctor is there to help. If they use a term you are unfamiliar ask them to clarify.

Remember to speak up. Physicians aren’t mind readers. If you are experiencing symptoms, let them know. If you have upcoming procedures or are unsure about a treatment, tell your doctor now so that you can discuss the pros/cons and other options.

Sometimes however, asking questions and raising concerns are easier said than done. It is important to prepare for a doctor’s visit much like you would prepare for a meeting. In order to have the best line of communication possible there are some things you can do when getting ready for an upcoming appointment.

An appointment provides a finite amount of time to discuss your concerns, and you don’t want to forget anything, so write it down. Start by making a list of everything you want to discuss. If it’s possible start making this list at least a week prior to your appointment so you have time to add items you may have initially overlooked or forgotten. Prioritize your list and highlight the top three or four most important things to discuss first. That way you ensure you won’t run out of time to bring them up.

Make sure to note any changes since your last visit. Have you been ill? Have you been to the ER or to visit a specialist? Have you had any changes in medication? Have you experienced any significant stress or changes in your life such as a recent loss? All of these details are important because they allow your doctor a more complete view of your situation.

Next, gather important information. Bring along the names and contact information for any other doctors you see, even if you don’t see them regularly. Make sure you have your insurance information when you arrive at the clinic. If this is your first visit with this particular physician, make sure they have access to your medical records. You can request that your records be sent to your new doctor. Make sure to bring a list of ALL medications including those prescribed by other physicians, over the counter medicines, vitamins, and supplements.

Now identify potential obstacles to communication. If you have glasses or hearing aids, make sure you wear them to your appointment. Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor to speak up or slow down if you are having a hard time understanding what they are saying. Consider bringing a “stenographer”. Ask a family member or friend to join you to take notes or just be another set of eyes and ears. You can always ask them to step out of the room if you would like to discuss things privately with your physician.

Not only will you give your doctor a lot of information, you’ll get a lot of information too. Ask questions. Have the doctor write important information down for you. If your doctor gives you information verbally, repeat it back in your own words. This allows you to clarify what you have heard. It also gives your doctor the opportunity to make sure you have understood the information.

Being a patient is not passive. You are an essential part of your healthcare team. By actively participating in your care you help to ensure you and your clinician can work together to make the right decisions for you.

Home Health United offers Informational Visits to anyone interested in learning more about how our services can help. Request an Informational Visit online or call 800-924-2273.