How to Talk to Your Doctor

For health's sake, speak up

Asking questions about your regimen and showing an interest in your own health is always something that will benefit the relationship, because doctors see patients as partners in their own care. To the degree that you can be a more active participant and not somebody who is just waiting to be told what to do, it makes the relationship more mutually satisfying.

To facilitate communication:

Before the doctor visit, prepare questions about your illness, treatment, medication, and tests. Write questions on paper, focusing on the most important issues.

Be honest and forthright about the main reason you are there and what you hope to get out of the visit.

Be candid and tell the truth. Sometimes it’s dangerous to withhold information or be dishonest with a doctor, as this may result in a prescription or recommendation that’s harmful for you.

Be a well-informed patient, but don’t appear to challenge the doctor’s knowledge or authority. Ask the doctor’s opinion about what you’ve researched.

Don’t pretend to agree with the physician, then not follow his or her advice after leaving. This undermines the relationship and the ability of the doctor to effectively care for you. If you don’t agree with the doctor, say so.

After the appointment, follow through on recommendations. Make appointments for tests and further visits. Observe how you’re responding to specific treatments.

Keep a medical diary for complicated illnesses.

Be courteous and do not be overly demanding, expecting special treatment from the doctor’s staff. Constantly seeking favors like being seen for a non-urgent problem when you don’t have an appointment or asking for forms or letters to be completed when you haven’t told the staff about this ahead of time is not advised.

Arrive on time. Being consistently late is inconsiderate.

When selecting a new doctor, increase the odds for good communication. Look for a physician with whom you can feel comfortable just being yourself. Pick a provider you think will care about you as a person, not judge you or treat you unfairly based on what they know or assume about you.

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