How to Talk to Your Doctor

| By Casa de la Luz

Individuals are often intimidated by visits to the doctor. The doctor seems rushed, the office is cold, health issues can be embarrassing, the information and the medical jargon is confusing. Sound like a familiar situation?

Make your next doctor’s visit easier with some of these tips and tools for talking to the doctor.
Before the appointment, write down any questions you have about your current health status, any treatments you’re currently undergoing, and any prescriptions you’re already taking. Jot these down on a notepad, or on an electronic document that you can access via your tablet. Prioritize your questions so that the most important ones can be answered.
The doctor will probably ask you if there have been any changes since your last appointment. Write down a list of any health changes so you’ll have the answers ready, and you won’t forget anything.

If the doctor suggests any new treatments or medications, have a list of questions ready to address his/her suggestions. Potential questions include:

·         What is the goal of this treatment or medication? How will it benefit me?

·         How and when will I know if it is working?

·         Is this treatment covered under my insurance? Are there any additional co-pays?

·         What are the side effects? How long will they last, and how can they be managed?

·         Are there any other options? Why would you recommend this one over other options?

Come armed with all of your current medications, either with the bottles or a list. Make sure to include any over-the-counter vitamins, supplements, or other medications you might be taking.

Bring a note-taking device. A notepad and pen or an electronic tablet will help you keep track of the doctor’s responses, as well as anything new he might prescribe. I especially like the added convenience electronic note taking offers if information needs to be shared with other family members who couldn’t be present. The document can be transferred via a free FTP like Dropbox or e-mailed directly from the device.

Bring a note-taking backup. See if a friend or family member can accompany you on the appointment as an extra set of ears and to take notes. If this isn’t an option, bring a small digital recorder to record your conversation with the doctor. Both of these can help you reference any information you might have missed.

As you and the doctor are talking, don’t be afraid to repeat something back to him to make sure you understand the consequences, results, or instructions. Start off with, “So for this medication, I need to…” or “If I understand correctly, this treatment will help me…”

When it comes to your health, or that of a loved one, don’t be afraid to ask questions or ask for more clarification.

Additional resources about talking with your doctor
Talking with Your Doctor” from Living with Serious Illness

Talking with Your Doctor: A Guide for Older People” from the National Institute on Aging

Tips for Talking to Your Doctor” from FamilyDoctor.org

By Carrie Bui, Communications Specialist
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