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Tips for Talking to your Doctor

How well you and your doctor communicate is one of the most important parts of getting good health care. Talking to your doctor, however, is not always easy. It takes time and effort on your part as well as your doctor’s.

In the past, the doctor typically took the lead and the patient followed. Today, a good doctor/patient relationship is more of a partnership. You and your doctor work as a team, along with nurses, physician assistants, pharmacists and other health care providers, to address your medical problems and keep you healthy.

Talk to your doctor and the nurse
It is not uncommon to visit with your doctor’s nurse first. Be sure to tell the nurse about any current and past health care issues or concerns. It is important to share any information you can, even if you’re embarrassed, including:
– Any symptoms you are having
– Your health history. Keep a journal and bring it to your appointments.
– Personal information, including whether you are stressed or your life is changing
– List all your medications, even those purchased over the counter. Include the medication strength and how often you are taking each.
– Any side effects from your medications
– Any allergies you might have, especially to medications.

Ask questions
Don’t be afraid to speak up. It is important for you to let your doctor know if you don’t understand something. If you don’t, your doctor will think you understand everything you’ve been told. If you have questions before the appointment, be sure to write them down to ask during your appointment. You don’t want to forget anything when you have your doctor’s attention. Tell your doctor if you need more time to discuss something.

Take information home
It’s all right to take notes at your appointment. Sometimes it helps to bring a family member or friend with you to help write down the doctor’s instructions or answers to your questions. Ask for brochures or other written material.

Follow through
Be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions, like taking medication or scheduling a test or another appointment. If you forget something, it is okay to contact your doctor. The following are reasons you may need to call after your appointment:
– If you have questions after the appointment.
– If you start to feel worse or have problems with your medicine.

As we age, it becomes even more important to talk often and comfortably with your doctor. That’s partly because you may have more health issues to discuss. It’s also because your health greatly impacts other parts of your life. Taking an active role in your health care puts the responsibility of good communication on both you and your doctor.

Kathleen Weston
Director of Hospice Operations