Doctor, Doctor, Give Me the News

Have you ever visited your doctor with a specific concern or list of items to discuss – and left the appointment wondering what just happened? It may feel like your doctor hasn’t really heard what you’re saying. Or maybe you don’t entirely understand the instructions they’ve given. Maybe you’ve even forgotten to talk about some of your concerns.

Advocating for your health begins with good two-way dialogue. Use these tips for more effective communication with your medical providers:

Include questions for feedback. 

Most doctors’ offices keep electronic records, and they may be typing on a computer while you talk. As you’re sharing your concerns, include questions such as “What do you think?” “Does that make sense?” It acts as a doublecheck that your doctor is listening, engaged and processing what you’re saying. 

Organize your thoughts before your appointment.

Doctors generally have less time for each appointment. You may feel rushed and forget what you wanted to discuss. Write down the topics you want to cover, including the symptoms, medications taken, dates of medical events and other pertinent information. Prioritize your top three concerns and present those first.

Don’t be embarrassed to talk in front of nurses or other medical professionals.

There may be a nurse or “medical scribe” in the room, taking notes for the doctor. You may feel a loss of privacy talking about your health issues in front of others. Don’t worry; as a member of the medical staff, they hear all sorts of things. If you’re truly uncomfortable, you can ask the doctor to have the other person step out. 

Ask questions.

You have a right to ask for clarification when terms are unfamiliar or directions are unclear. You also deserve to know how much a procedure or prescription is going to cost. Don’t hesitate to ask questions during your appointment or call the doctor’s office with questions between appointments.

Listen closely.

Want to make sure you don’t miss something? Take a piece of paper and jot down key notes during the appointment. You can even record the conversation (with the doctor’s permission) on your phone or on a tape recorder. If you have difficulty understanding or hearing conversation, take a trusted family member with you to listen in.