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3 tips for talking to your doctor

March 07, 2017

Getting the best possible medical care doesn’t always involve sophisticated technology or the latest medications. Sometimes a good conversation with your doctor can make all the difference.

That’s because your doctor relies on the information you provide to help guide your care. He or she needs to hear about your symptoms to make an accurate diagnosis. If you are reluctant to tell your doctor all your symptoms, a proper diagnosis can be missed.

Of course you depend on information from your doctor, too. You need the doctor to explain, in ways you can understand, what you should be doing to get or stay healthy.

All of this requires good communication — something that may be easier if you keep these points in mind:

1. Don’t be embarrassed. It’s not easy to share certain symptoms or details about your lifestyle or personal life. Just remember, your doctor is there to help and he or she has probably heard similar things from other patients. Everything you tell your physician is confidential and protected by patient privacy regulations.

2. Offer information. Don’t assume that if your doctor doesn’t bring something up, it’s not important. Often, it’s helpful to make lists before your appointment. Include things like your current medical conditions, family health history, past surgeries and your allergies. Also list all the medications you take, including prescription and over-the-counter products, vitamins and dietary or herbal supplements.

Deciding which treatment will be most effective also may depend on which medicines you’re using right now. “It is very useful to bring all of the medications that you are taking in a bag to your office visit so that your physician can review them,” says Dino Morello, MD, a family medicine physician at Kettering Physician Network Primary Care in Beavercreek. “Even concerns about paying for your medicines are important to share as this barrier could prevent you from following your doctor’s treatment recommendations and your doctor may be able to choose a cheaper alternative medical therapy.”

It can also be good to write down any symptoms you’re having and questions you want to ask the doctor.

3. Listen actively. Pay careful attention to what your doctor says. If anything concerns you or is unclear, ask for clarification and make sure to obtain a written discharge summary to bring home for review. Some people find it helpful to take notes or ask the doctor to write things down. It may also be worthwhile to bring someone with you who can act as a second pair of ears.

“The doctor-patient relationship is a very important interaction which helps you stay healthy and can be viewed like a marriage in that it needs to be based on a mutual respect and trust between parties,” Dr. Morello says.