Tips for Talking to Your Doctor
To get the right health care, you need
to develop a relationship with your doctor. Whether you are
having a routine physical examination or being evaluated
for surgery, if you
- prepare for your visit,
- take an active role in your health care,
- continue to communicate with your doctor
you will obtain more satisfactory results.
The following tips will help you get the
most of your doctor’s care.
When you visit the doctor for the first time, write down your medical history
- illnesses for which you received medical
treatment and whether the Illness was cured or is reoccurring,
- a list of all recent shots and vaccines,
- a list of all known allergies, and
- the list of medications (including prescription
drugs, vitamins, and over-the-counter medications) that
you are taking.
Prepare a list of concerns and questions
to be discussed during the visit. Order the list by importance.
This list will help you to tell your doctor what you think
he or she needs to know about your illness and general health.
Include details of your illness such as:
- what time of day do you feel the worst
- if you have a fever, chills, or nausea.
For each return visit to the doctor, update
the list of illnesses and concerns. Include how your health
has changed since the last visit. Describe recent visits
to an emergency room or any new symptoms.
in the Visit
Be an active participant in your health care. When you are in the doctor’s
- discuss each illness or concern with
the doctor in the order of most importance.
- discuss only one illness at one time.
- don’t withhold information even
if the information is personal or embarrassing.
- mention changes in your weight, appetite,
sleep patterns, energy level, etc.
- be honest in your responses to the doctor’s
The doctor needs to receive as much information
as possible from you to accurately diagnose your problem.
Some questions you might want to ask include:
- What is my diagnosis?
- Do I need to take any tests to either
rule-out or confirm the diagnosis?
- How do you plan to treat my condition?
- Do I have any treatment options?
- When will the treatment start and how
long will it last?
- What are the risks and side effects
of the treatment?
- Should I watch for any particular symptoms
and notify you if they occur?
- When do I need to call or see you again?
Share your point of view. When you have
returned for a follow-up visit, it is important for the doctor
to understand what treatment is working and what is not working.
Be sure you understand all explanations
from the doctor.
- Ask questions when you don’t know
the meaning of a word or if the doctor’s instructions
are not clear.
- Repeat what you have heard to allow
the doctor to verify you understood what was said.
- Take notes to help you remember all
main points of your discussion.
- Ask your doctor to write instructions
down for you.
If the doctor has prescribed medicine,
be sure you can read the prescription and that you understand
how the medicine is to be taken.
Ask whom you can call in your doctor’s
office if you have additional questions and when is the best
time to call.
The key is to not leave the doctor’s
office unless you:
- completely understand your diagnosis,
- know how the doctor will treat your
- know your treatment options.
If you don’t understand, ask what
you can read to obtain more information. The doctor may be
able to provide a pamphlet or an Internet site address.
When you are at home, you should call the doctor’s office
- if you have questions about your illness,
- if your symptoms get worse, or
- if you have a problem with the medicine
If your doctor wants you to have tests
done at a lab or refers you to a specialist, make the appointment.
If you had tests, call to obtain your test results. After
the results have been received, call the doctor’s office
to identify the next steps in your treatment.