Communicating with Your Doctor — 5 Key Tips
Your ability to communicate effectively and honestly with your doctor is an important
part of making sure that your healthcare needs are met. “The physician-patient relationship
is based on mutual trust, respect, and joint decision-making about care and treatment
options,” explains UAB geriatrician Marisol Lance, DO. “Effective, open communication
provides the foundation for a positive, productive relationship.”
While communication is a two-way street, there are many things you
can do to improve communication between you and your physician. Review this checklist
before your next appointment to make sure you’re getting the most out of every visit.
Article last updated: March 7, 2011 10:46 AM
- Write a list of questions and concerns before your doctor’s visit, and review
the list during your appointment. “This strategy can be a great time saver
for patients and physicians,” says Dr. Lance. “Having a list of questions helps
to ensure that your needs and concerns are being addressed.”
- Bring all medications you are currently taking to the doctor’s appointment.
“This is especially important if you are seeing a new doctor,” Dr. Lance explains.
“We can spend less time trying to determine what medications you’re on and spend
more time talking about issues that are important to you.”
- Ask a family member or friend to be with you during the appointment.
Having your own personal advocate there to listen and ask questions can help you
make sure that you won’t miss any information or misunderstand something your doctor
explains. “If you have several family members who are interested in your care, it’s
best to assign one person to accompany you to appointments and, if needed, speak
to the physician on your behalf,” adds Dr. Lance.
- Make a habit of repeating instructions back to your doctor or practice what
your doctor has shown you while you’re still in the office. Repeating instructions
helps both you and your doctor be sure that you understand how to use medications
or medical equipment and other aspects of your care.
- Speak up about any problem or concern. Don’t let embarrassment
or fear keep you from asking your doctor a question. “Often, older adult patients
are hesitant to ask about common problems such as incontinence or vision and hearing
problems,” explains Dr. Lance. “They may be embarrassed or assume these problems
are a normal part of aging and that treatments aren’t available. However, many of
these issues can be treated or improved, leading to a better quality of life. That’s
why it’s important for you to be honest with your doctor about any health issues