8 tips for better communication with your doctor

You may not know as much about your condition and its treatment as your health care provider does, but you and your family are the only ones who can decide what is best for you. Remember that you are a part of the team and you have a part to play in your care.

Here are eight tips for communicating better with your provider, and getting the most out of your visit.

1. Don’t be afraid to ask questions

Most health care providers want you to ask questions, but you may not know which questions to ask. It's easy to forget questions you or your family may have, so you may want to write your questions down ahead of time.

It's also hard to remember everything your provider says at each visit. You or your family member should write down what your health care provider tells you. If your health care provider says it's OK, you may want to record the conversation.

2. Ask for reliable books, websites, pictures, diagrams or other visual aids

Ask your health care provider to show you where your condition is in your body, and how the treatment will work. Being able to picture your condition and how the treatment will affect it can be a powerful aid as you make decisions.

3. Make sure you get the answers you need

Your condition may be a complicated disease, and different people have different ways of understanding what is happening to them. Don’t be shy to say, “I don’t understand. Would you please explain it to me again?” Or if needed, don’t be afraid to call back and ask to speak with your health care provider or nurse again.

4. Don’t withhold information

Don’t tell your health care provider or nurse that you’re doing just fine when you’re not. Your health care provider and nurse need to know about any new symptoms and changes in how you feel. Tell them if you’re having pain. Let them know if you’re using any other treatments along with your health care provider-prescribed treatment.

Giving your health care providers a truthful picture of what complimentary therapies you are using, or thinking of using, will help make sure that your treatments will be safe. All of this information is important and will help your team manage your treatment in the best way possible.

5. Take a partner with you to your appointments and treatment

Your partner, a relative, a friend, or an adult child can be helpful during medical visits. Your partner can be a valuable set of ears and may even ask questions you didn't think of or remember. Talk before the visit so you can work together as a team to make sure you know what questions or problems you want to talk about.

Your partner can be your advocate, asking the tough questions that you’re not comfortable with. Having a partner with you is especially important if you’re taking medicine or if you’re anxious or upset.

You may be asked to sign a medical release form granting your family member or friend the right to talk about your treatment or other concerns with your health care team. That is done to protect your privacy. Talk with your partner right after the visit about the information you received. While it is fresh, review the information to make sure you both heard and understood the same things.

6. Try not to get upset with the messenger

It's important to keep in mind that your healthcare providers are doing everything they can to help you get well.  If you are upset, try to separate the anger you have about your diagnosis from whether or not you are disappointed with your healthcare provider.  And if you are disappointed with your provider, don't be afraid to say so and get another opinion.

7. Make sure all of your health care providers talk with each other

You may have more than one health care provider. Each one should be up to date on your condition.

Make a list of all of your health care providers' names, specialties, phone numbers and addresses. Give this information to each provider on your list. This will make it easier for them to consult each other, share reports and medical records, and discuss important issues about your care.

8. Don’t be afraid to talk with your health care provider about problems or concerns

Your relationship with your health care provider is an important one. Be clear and specific when you state your concerns and give examples. Listen to your health care provider's response and try to understand their perspective.

Taking an active role in your care will help you get the information you need and ensure that everyone is working with you.

Caregiver’s tip: Be an advocate for your loved one. Informed patients and families often have better outcomes.

This article is provided by the StayWell Company, LLC. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.


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