4 Simple Tips to Communicate More Effectively with Your Doctor

Posted on September 12, 2012


1)    Take Control

Understand that it is your responsibility to communicate your symptoms, health problems in detail, clearly and concisely to your doctor.  You can’t sit passively in your doctor’s office and expect him/her to discover all of the important information. Your doctor has only a short time (usually 10-15 minutes per patient visit) to spend with you. Be well prepared and organized before you are in the doctor’s office.  Explain what your problem is, when did it start, how much does it disrupt your daily life, what have you tried to take care of the problem, etc.  Ask questions if you don’t understand the doctor’s explanations/directions. Be clear about follow–up, e.g., “When should I expect to feel better?’, “When do you want to see me again?”, “How best to communicate with you if my symptoms worsen?”. If you are feeling too ill or overwhelmed to do all of this yourself, take along a trusted family member, friend or professional health care advocate to speak on your behalf.

2)    Trust Your Instincts

You know your body better than anyone else. If you think your doctor is missing an important aspect of your care, say so! For example, if you have had nausea for several weeks and the doctor says, “Don’t worry about it, it’s most likely due to anxiety”.  And if you don’t agree, say so! Ask for diagnostic tests to rule out other possible problems. If you feel that your doctor is not paying attention to your needs, not listening to your problems, say so! If this pattern persists, do your due diligence, research and find another doctor!

3)    Be Respectively Assertive

Inform your doctor of your expectations for care (e.g., you want to be listened to; you want clear  explanations given in an understandable manner; you want instructions provided about how to reach your doctor if problems arise between office visits). Express your concerns directly to your doctor, e.g., “When you interrupt me, I feel that what I have to say is unimportant to you”.

4)    Know You Have Choices

If you are not satisfied with the level of care and service (that’s right your doctor is hired to provide quality service to you!), if you have nagging doubts about your doctor’s attentiveness and judgment, first, directly express your concerns to your doctor and give the doctor an opportunity to resolve those concerns. If your concerns are not resolved to your satisfaction, know that you have choices and you have a personal responsibility to find another doctor.

For more information on “speaking up at the doctor’s office”.