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IRC Blog

IRC Blog
Posted: Thursday, August 18, 2016
By: IRC Blog

Talking with your doctor for better health care

Doctors and other health care professionals are so busy that it can feel like they don’t have much time to listen to you. 

Communication with your doctor is a vital part of getting good health care. But communication is a two-way street, and it’s important for both you and your doctor to make an effort. 

According to a new infographic from the National Institute on Aging, you have only 18 seconds to get your main points across—that’s the average time a doctor waits before interrupting a patient. There are ways you can improve communication with your physician so that you establish a good relationship with her or him, physician assistants, pharmacists and other health care providers. 

One of the best things you can do to make the most of your next appointment is to be prepared. If you have particular concerns about a medication you’re taking or a new symptom you want to ask about, write them down in order of importance. Bring up the most important items first. If you have a written list, your doctor can scan it quickly and then focus on discussing your concerns and answering your questions. 

When discussing symptoms, be prepared to give your doctor a brief description of the symptom, when it started, how often it happens and whether it’s getting worse or better. Inform your doctor about any lifestyle conditions or changes that might influence your health. 

It’s a good idea to bring a list of all the prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, herbal remedies and supplements you take, along with how often you take them and the dosage. Be sure you also have required documents such as insurance cards. It’s helpful to provide the names and phone numbers of any other health care professionals you see. 

Once you’ve completed the visit, make sure you’re clear on any new instructions the doctor gives you. Don’t hesitate to ask if you don’t understand what your doctor is asking you to do. It’s also fine to ask about side effects of any new prescriptions you’ll be taking, request information on a test that is prescribed and discuss your diagnosis and what you can expect. 

What should you do when your doctor recommends a treatment that makes you uncomfortable? First, ask about the pros and cons of the treatment and whether there are any alternatives. You and the doctor should be partners in developing a treatment plan, and most will work with you to find one that’s acceptable and effective. 

If you feel like your doctor is rushing to get to the next patient, say so. A guide to talking with your doctor from the National Institute on Aging suggests expressing these feelings in a positive way, such as saying, “I know you have a lot of patients to see, but I’m really worried about this. I’d feel much better if we could talk about it a little more.” 

It may not always be comfortable to talk about sensitive subjects such as depression, memory problems or sexuality with your doctor, but you should make the effort. A good doctor will take your concerns seriously. 

It’s also important to be honest with your doctor. If you have concerns, such as not getting your questions answered or having to wait too long for an appointment, they won’t get addressed unless you bring them up. After all, it’s your health! 

For more information about talking with your doctor, along with a convenient set of worksheets you can use as an agenda for discussion, please refer to the National Institute on Aging’s detailed brochure on talking with your doctor.



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