Communicating with Doctors

Collaboration, communication, and coordination are the keys to successfully working with all of your health care providers. This only possible when patient-physician communication is open, honest, and as often as needed. When communication between a doctor and a patient breaks down the outcomes for the patient are not as good. If for any reason you are not comfortable talking with your doctor and your health providers, please find someone that you trust to help you.   The rest of this post helps you understand and speak with your doctors and health care providers.

Communicating with your doctors and health providers is a cornerstone of good health. This requires learning and using basic communication skills, including; preparation, asking questions, listening to answers, answering questions honestly and directly, and taking enough time to think about what you want.

Unfortunately, talking with your doctor is not always easy. It takes time and effort on your part as well as your doctor. If either person does not do their part the communication may break down.

How to Talk to Your Doctor

A good relationship is based on you and your doctor openly sharing information and working together to make the best decisions about your health. Practicing open communication with a doctor that you trust may also help increase your confidence that you have chosen the right treatment, and in achieving a positive outcome. Doctors are busy people and their offices are often a buzz with activity, like ringing telephones and crowded waiting rooms. When you actually see your doctor, your visit may not last more than fifteen minutes.

Tip: Be prepared for your doctor’s appointment.

You can prepare by writing down all the questions you have for the doctor in advance and bring a pen and paper to jot down answers and take notes. Here are some questions you might want to ask:

  • What do think might be wrong with me? How do you know?
  • What are the common causes of this problem?
  • Will I need any tests?
  • Which tests might I need?
  • What does each test involve?
  • How do I prepare for each test?
  • Will my insurance pay for the tests?
  • What are my treatment choices?
  • What are the benefits and risks of each treatment?
  • What are the side effects?
  • How are the likely outcomes of each treatment?
  • Which treatment is the most common for my condition?
  • What would be the “next steps” if treatment fails?
  • What kind of medication(s) must I take? For how long?
  • What does the drug do? Will there be any side effects?
  • What should I do if I have side effects?
  • Can I take a generic version of the drug?
  • Will the medicine interact with any I am already taking?
  • Should I avoid any kind of food or activity while taking this medicine?
  • Will I need to see a specialist?
  • Should I get a second opinion?
  • Do I need a follow-up visit?

For additional information on how to work with your doctors and talk about your health read Section 8 in the Dr.Me Patient & Caregiver Guide.