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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.

  • 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 you’re experiencing.”
Article last updated: March 7, 2011 10:46 AM