Communicating with your doctor

Learn how to ensure your doctor understands your needs

Good communication is an important part of your partnership with your doctor. As in any relationship, good communication doesn't just happen – it takes time and effort. Here’s what you can do to make sure you are playing an active role in decisions about your health care.

Plan ahead

It helps if you bring a written list of your symptoms, questions, and a pad and pencil to your appointment. If you are taking medications (either prescription or over-the-counter) or getting any treatment, write down the details beforehand. Include in your list of medications any "natural" or homeopathic remedies you may be taking.

Be specific

When talking with your doctor, it's best to address your medical concerns up front, in as much detail as possible. For example, be more specific than "My stomach hurts a lot. " Instead, say, "For the past three weeks, I've been getting a sharp pain on my right side for about an hour after I eat."

Similarly, if you think you know what's wrong with you or you have a specific concern, say so: "I've been having trouble climbing stairs and I'm afraid I might have asthma." Your doctor will appreciate knowing this. It will give him or her a chance to immediately address your greatest fears.

Stick with what works

Finally, if your doctor answered your questions but you still aren't satisfied, you may need to look for a doctor with a communication style that matches your own. It's important to choose a doctor who makes you feel comfortable. Then once you find that doctor, stay with him or her. That's how you build a trusting relationship.

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