Talking To Your Doctor

Talking with your doctor

A doctor’s visit is a critical time to get information about your health. But when you feel rushed or are nervous about what the doctor might say, it’s hard to concentrate on the information that you are getting. People often leave the doctor without having their questions answered or without remembering what the doctor told them.

To make sure that doesn’t happen to you, here are some tips that can help you get the most from your doctor’s visit:

BEFORE your appointment:

  • Write up a list of any questions or concerns you may have for the doctor. These can be about any symptoms you’re having, about medications or treatments you are using, any concerns about your physical, mental, and emotional health, and whether you think your treatment plan is working for you.
  • Write up a list of medications and other therapies you are using. You may have received different treatments from different doctors. Don’t assume your doctors are communicating or coordinating your care. It’s up to you to let each doctor know about how your medical conditions are being treated.
  • Decide what your goals are for the visit. Are you looking for more information about your medical condition? Do you want to try new treatments? Do you feel that your wishes are being taken into consideration? Make sure you know what you want to get out of the visit before you go in.
  • Decide if you want someone to come with you to the appointment. You may have a friend or family member who can give you support and help you carry out parts of your treatment plan. If so, you should ask them to come with you.

AT your appointment:

  • Be open and honest with your doctor. Talking about your chronic illness and its symptoms can be difficult. For example, some people feel uncomfortable talking about chronic pain because it’s not as visible as other medical symptoms. Others feel uncomfortable talking about their depression or anxiety. But the only way to get the help you need is to be as honest as you can with your doctor.
  • Give your doctor your lists of medical questions and medications/therapies and ask specific questions. Make sure your doctor goes through the entire list of questions and concerns and answers everything. Ask for specifics: If a doctor says “exercise more” ask how often and what kind of exercise does the doctor suggest.
  • Get written instructions or information about your diagnosis or treatment. If it’s written down you can refer back to it if you forget what the doctor told you.
  • Ask if you can access your medical records on-line and how to do it. This gives you a way to always get information about your health, your treatment plan, and test results.