5 Tips for Effectively Communicating with Physicians

When it comes to your health care, good communication is key. It’s vital that both you and your doctor provide the necessary information, ask the right questions and fully understand the answers that you receive. It may sound simple, but in the complex, fast-paced and often disorienting world of modern health care, it’s easy for miscommunications and missed opportunities to happen. To get the most out of your encounters with your doctor, use these five tips for communicating effectively with physicians.

1. Be Prepared

Doctor’s appointments are brief. You don’t have time to waste, so it’s best to have everything you’ll need at your fingertips. Come prepared with a list of current medications and a concise health history. Bring notes about your symptoms and a list of questions that you would like answered. If you’re unsure about what you should be asking, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, offers a handy question builder that helps patients create a list of questions for their next doctor’s appointment.

2. Be Mindful of Your Priorities

With an office full of patients awaiting their attention, doctors don’t have time for chitchat. Be pleasant, but get to the point. If you have more than one concern, prioritize your issues and begin with the one that is most important to you. Move briskly through your concerns, but don’t rush through them so quickly that you don’t understand what you’re being told. If necessary, schedule another appointment to address additional concerns.

3. Be Honest

People like to present themselves in a positive light, but keeping secrets from your doctor can be deadly. Don’t tell your doctor what you think they want to hear. Tell the truth. Answer any questions about your diet, lifestyle, habits, symptoms and compliance honestly and accurately. Medical professionals aren’t there to judge you; their goal is to help you manage your health. Providing false information limits their ability to assist you.

4. Be Open to New Ideas

The Internet makes it incredibly simple to find information on a wide range of medical conditions, and it’s easy to find something that seems to match your symptoms. In fact, 35 percent of adults in the U.S. admit to going online with the intent of diagnosing a medical condition, according to the Pew Research Center. While it’s good to take an active role in your health care, remember than an hour on the Web is not remotely equal to years of medical school and experience as a health care professional. If your doctor’s diagnosis isn’t what you were expecting, don’t immediately discount it. Be open to your doctor’s ideas.

5. Be Willing to Speak Up

It’s your health at stake, so don’t stay silent if something seems inaccurate or confuses you. Speak up and let your doctor know so that you can work together to clear up any confusion. Be respectful and polite, but don’t be afraid to question your doctor. If you want to be certain that you really understand something that your doctor has said, try mirroring the doctor’s comment by repeating it back to them in your own words. This gives your doctor a chance to correct you if you’re mistaken and allows you to be more confident that you have a clear understanding.

Health care is a collaborative endeavor, and patients are encouraged to be active participants in their own care. Don’t let unnecessary miscommunications compromise the quality of your care. Take charge of your health by doing your part to communicate effectively with your physician.