How to Talk to Your Doctor

Talking to your doctor about your health can sometimes be a challenge. However, building a relationship with your doctor is an essential part of your healthcare. Premier Community Health and the National Institute on Aging have compiled the following tips and suggestions to help you get the most out of your doctor appointments.

Communication is key

A good doctor-patient relationship is a partnership, not a one-way relationship. The more information you give your doctor about your health, the better.

Ask questions

Come prepared with a list of questions so you remember to ask your doctor everything on your mind. Make sure to prioritize your questions so you ask the most pressing ones first.

If you don’t understand your doctor’s instructions or explanations, ask your doctor if he or she will explain it a different way. Sometimes it helps to hear a different approach.

Choose a doctor you feel comfortable with

It is important to surround yourself with people you feel comfortable with. If your doctor makes you feel uncomfortable, it might be time to find a new one.

Bring your personal health information to your appointment

Bring a list of all of your current prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, and vitamins and any other herbs or supplements you may be using to your appointment.

Bring your insurance card to each appointment.

Bring the names and phone numbers of any other doctors you see (primary care physicians, specialists, etc.).

Share how you are feeling with your doctor

Make sure to let the doctor know about any symptoms you are having and how long you’ve had them.

Try to keep a daily journal of your symptoms and share them with your doctor.

Learn about any medical test you are having done

Whether routine or not, medical tests and procedures can sometimes be frightening if you don’t understand why you need them. Make sure to ask the doctor to explain the procedure to you, as well as what it will tell the doctor and how much it will cost.

It is also important to ask your doctor when you will receive test results.

Make decisions with your doctor

Make sure you discuss the pros and cons of each treatment option with your doctor. Discuss the choice, discuss the risks and benefits, and take your values and circumstances into account as you decide on treatment options.

No topic is off limits to discuss with your doctor

Don’t avoid discussing issues with your doctor, especially the difficult ones. A complete diagnosis depends on your willingness to discuss all health issues with your doctor. This includes discussing your sex life or sexual problems, problems with going to the bathroom or anything else you might not usually talk about.

Involve your family and friends

Consider bringing a family member or friend to your appointment to help you take notes and remember what the doctor said.

Actively search for health information

Make the most of your time with your doctor by being well informed. The Internet, books, national organizations, and self-help groups all are helpful and informative resources. Ask your doctor for information on a specific condition or procedure. You can also ask your doctor to point you in the direction of locating more information on a specific topic.

Source: National Institute on Aging, “Talking With Your Doctor”