[x_blockquote cite=”Nelson (Worcester, MA)” type=”left”]Dear Marci,
I sometimes worry that I’m not communicating well with my health care providers. What are some things I can do to get the most out of my doctors’ appointments?[/x_blockquote]
Communication is key in building good relationships with your health care providers and getting the best possible care. To help you communicate effectively with your doctors and other providers, take the following steps:
- Before making an appointment, make sure that the doctors you are interested in seeing accept your health insurance.
- Think about what you would like to ask the doctor before your visit. You may want to write down your questions and take them with you to your appointment.
- Make sure to bring all relevant health insurance cards (for example, Medicare, Medicaid, Medigap, and/or Medicare Advantage cards) and documents to your appointment.
- Bring a copy of your health history to your appointment, especially if it is your first visit to a particular doctor. Your health history may include a record of the dates and results of past tests, major illnesses, hospitalizations, medications, chronic illnesses, allergies, and a family history of physical and mental illnesses.
- Bring a pen and paper to your appointment so you can write down what your doctor tells you. You can also ask your doctor if you can record your conversation.
- Decide if you want to bring another person, like a caregiver, to your appointment. It may be useful if you have extensive care needs or are used to someone managing your care.
- Tell your doctor about any current symptoms or concerns during your visit. If there are several, consider ranking them in order of how much they are affecting/troubling you.
- Tell your doctor if you are having trouble with activities of daily living, such as bathing or dressing.
- Tell your doctor about other health care providers (like specialists or therapists) you have seen and any treatments they have prescribed or recommended.
- Health issues can be hard to talk about, but it is important that your doctor have as much relevant information from you as possible so they can recommend the best possible care.
- If your doctor does not specifically ask for information that you think is important, tell them.
- If you do not understand something your doctor says, ask them to explain it.
- Ask the same question more than once, or ask if your doctor can explain something in a different way, if you need more time to process an answer. If you need further clarification, consider scheduling a phone conversation or speaking to a nurse or other provider.
Get it in writing.
- Ask your doctor to write down what you should do between now and your next visit. This may include instructions for how to take medications, specialists you should see, and/or lifestyle modifications you should consider.
- If you experience problems after your appointment, or if you have symptoms that get worse, call your doctor’s office to schedule a follow-up appointment. You may also need to make a lab/test appointment or find out how to access your lab/test results.
- Find out if your doctor uses any form of electronic communication, like email or an online portal. These can help you communicate questions and look up previous appointments and lab/test results without having to call the doctor’s office directly.