Talking with your doctor is an important part of getting good medical care. Good communication is an important part of the healing process. When a doctor and patient work as a team, they are more likely to achieve better health outcomes.
Why talking with your doctor matters
How well you and your doctor talk to each other is one of the most important parts of getting good health care. But, talking with your doctor isn’t always easy. It takes time and effort on your part as well as your doctor’s.
This means asking questions if the doctor’s explanations or instructions are unclear. You need to mention problems even if the doctor doesn’t ask. And be sure to let your doctor know if you have concerns about a particular treatment or change in your daily life.
♦ Taking an active role in your health care puts the responsibility for good communication on both you and your doctor.
All of this is true at any age. When you’re older, it becomes even more important to talk often and comfortably with your doctor. That’s partly because you may have more health conditions to discuss. Your health has a big impact on your life and that needs to be talked about.
What do I need to tell my doctor ?
Be prepared to:
• Share Any Symptoms
• Give Information About Your Medications
• Tell the Doctor About Your Lifestyle and Habits
Explain what is wrong
A symptom could be evidence of a disease or disorder in the body. Examples of symptoms include pain, fever, a lump or bump, unexplained weight loss or gain, or having a hard time sleeping. Going to bathroom a lot at night is a common concern, so don’t be afraid to talk about it.
Be clear and brief when describing your symptoms. Your description helps the doctor identify the problem. A physical exam and medical tests provide valuable information, but your symptoms point the doctor in the right direction.
Your doctor will ask you to describe your symptoms. Think about your symptoms.
• When did they start ?
• How long do they last ?
• How often do they occur ?
• Do they interfere with your daily activities ?
• Do they seem to be getting worse or better ?
• Has anyone else in your family ever had anything like this ?
• Is there anything that you do that makes them better or worse ?
♦ Take the time to write some notes about your symptoms before you visit the doctor. The doctor needs to know what you are experiencing and how you feel.
When you visit the doctor pay attention to your doctor’s questioning and also to how well he or she is listening to you. How well you and your doctor talk to each other is vital for receiving good health care. Equally important is how well your doctor listens to you.
♦ There are still many doctors that seem to think they can determine what is wrong with a person in the first 18 seconds of the office visit.
We like to excuse that doctors are pressed for time so we should not talk too much. The truth is, good doctors take the time to listen before deciding what may be wrong with you. And then they take more time to explain what they want to do to try to help you.
If your doctor doesn’t do this then you should hurry up and find a new doctor.
What medications are you taking
It is possible for medicines to interact and cause unpleasant and sometimes dangerous side effects. Your doctor needs to know about ALL of the medicines you take. Prepare a list or bring everything with you when you visit.
♦ Be sure to include over-the-counter drugs such as cold medicines. Herbal medicines, supplements and diet pills need to be listed. Don’t forget to list vitamins. Make a note about how often you take each.
Describe any drug allergies or reactions you can remember. Tell which medications work best for you and which don’t.
Write down the phone number of the pharmacy you prefer to use. This is very important since most insurance plans have preferred pharmacies.
Ask about a new medicine
• What is the name of the medicine and why am I taking it ?
• What medical condition does this medicine treat ?
• How many times a day should I take it ?
• At what time(s) ?
• What does 3 times a day mean ? Every 8 hours ?
• How much medicine should I take ?
• Should I take the medicine with food or not ?
• Anything I should not eat or drink when taking this medicine ?
• How long will it take this medicine to work ?
• Any problems if I am taking other medicines?
• Is it safe for me to drive while taking this medication ?
• What does “as needed” mean ?
• When should I stop taking the medicine ?
• If I forget to take my medicine, what should I do ?
• What side effects can I expect ?
• What should I do if I have a problem ?
• Will I need a refill ? How do I arrange that ?
♦ Each time you visit your doctor, be sure to ask if you still need to be on all your medications.
What about your habits
To provide the best care, your doctor must understand you as a person and know what your life is like. The doctor may ask about:
• Where you live
• What you eat
• How you sleep
• What you do each day
• What activities you enjoy
• What your sex life is like
• Do you smoke or drink
• Any major changes or stresses in your life
Try to be open and honest with your doctor. You don’t have to go into great detail. It will help him or her to understand you, your lifestyle and medical conditions more fully before recommending the best treatment for you.