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How to Talk to Your Doctor: 6 Tips

The doctor-patient relationship is a two-way street. Just as healthcare professionals should take the time to get to know you, you also need to be an active participant in your care. This could mean being prepared to talk openly and comfortably with your doctor about your issues, no matter how personal. Patients who are afraid or hesitant to speak up can miss out on crucial information that could help improve their health.

Understandably, going to a doctor’s appointment can be nerve-wracking, especially if it’s your first time or you have a lot of questions or concerns. You might feel like you’re being interrogated or taking up the doctor’s time for no reason. But remember, doctors are people too. They want to help you, and they appreciate it when their patients are proactive in their health care.

Good communication is key to a successful patient-doctor relationship and ensuring that your health care needs are met. Here are six tips for how to talk to your doctor, so you can make the most of your time at your next appointment.

Doctor taking patient's blood pressure at table

How to Talk to Your Doctor in 6 Simple Steps

1. Be Prepared with Notes, Questions, and Concerns

Before you even step into the exam room, take some time to think about what you want to discuss with your doctor. This could be anything from a nagging headache bothering you for weeks to a recent change in your mood, sleeping pattern, or tolerance to stress. It might be helpful to list down your symptoms and any questions you have, even if you don’t think they’re related to your main concerns. Doing so will give your physician a complete picture of your health. 

Apart from your symptoms and questions, you can also include the following information in your list, so you don’t forget to mention them at your appointment: 

  • Any medications you’re currently taking.
  • Any allergies you might have.
  • Recent changes in your lifestyle or diet. 

You can also bring relevant medical records or test results. This will help your physician further understand your medical situation and make more informed decisions about your care.

woman taking notes at desk

2. Prioritize Your Concerns

Trying to cram everything into one doctor’s visit is usually not possible or necessary. When you’re making your list of things to discuss, prioritize your concerns so you can focus on the most important topics first. This is especially important if you have a lot of questions or if your appointment is short. Start with the most pressing issues first and work your way down the list. 

Moreover, some concerns might be better suited for a different type of healthcare professional. If that’s the case, your primary care physician can refer you to someone more qualified to address your specific needs. 

If you’re unsure what deserves priority, ask your doctor for guidance. They should be able to help you figure out what’s most important to discuss during your appointment. 

3. Be Honest and Specific

In order for your doctor to provide you with the best possible care, it’s important that you’re honest about your symptoms and medical history. This includes everything from disclosing any risky behaviors to sharing information about your mental health. 

Your doctor can’t help you if they don’t have all the facts, so don’t hold back on anything, no matter how embarrassing or personal you think it might be.

patient doing video call with doctor on laptop

Being accurate is also vital. This means being specific about your symptoms and providing as much detail as possible. Instead of saying you have a headache, try to describe where the pain is located, how long you’ve been experiencing it, and what makes it better or worse. 

The more information you can give your doctor, the better they’ll be able to help you. 

4. Take Notes or Record What the Doctor Says on Your Phone

With everything that’s going on in the exam room — from answering questions to getting a physical examination — it can be challenging to remember everything your doctor tells you. It can be helpful to take notes, or even better, record the conversation on your phone. This way, you can go back and listen to what was said later if you forget something. 

If recording is not an option, try to take notes as soon as possible after your appointment while everything is still fresh in your mind. You can also ask the doctor to write down vital instructions or information for you. 

5. Ask a Lot of Questions, Even if You Think They’re Silly or Irrelevant

No question is a silly question when it comes to your wellness. If you don’t understand something or need more information, speak up! This is especially important since medical professionals tend to use jargon and medical terms that most laypeople don’t understand. If you hear something you’re not familiar with, ask the doctor to explain it in plain language. 

There’s no such thing as an irrelevant question when it comes to your health. Even if you think the answer might be obvious, it’s still worth asking. You might be surprised by what you learn. Asking questions also shows that you’re invested in your health care, which is something most doctors appreciate.

patient and doctor talking

If you’re worried about taking up too much of the doctor’s time, try to group your questions together. For example, you can ask all of your general questions first and then to more specific concerns.  

6. Give Feedback About the Doctor’s Care and Work Collaboratively

The doctor-patient relationship should be a partnership. This means that both parties should be working together to ensure the best possible outcome. 

One way to do this is to provide feedback about the care you’re receiving. If you’re happy with the way things are going, let your doctor know. On the other hand, if you’re not satisfied with the care you’re receiving, don’t hesitate to respectfully speak up. 

It’s essential to be specific about your concerns and provide constructive feedback. If you feel like your doctor is rushing through your appointment, you can say, “I really appreciate your time, but I’m feeling a bit rushed. Can we please spend a few more minutes discussing my concerns?” 

In some cases, you might not be happy with the doctor’s proposed course of treatment. If this is the case, it’s important to have an open and honest discussion about your options. Remember, you’re ultimately in charge of your care, and you have the right to make decisions you’re comfortable with. 

These are just a few tips to help you get the most out of your doctor’s appointments. By being prepared, honest, and engaged in your care, you can develop a strong partnership with your doctor that will benefit your health in the long run. These are simple tips for how to talk to your doctor more easily.

Want even more advice and guidance? Be sure to visit me on YouTube.

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Author: Jonathan Baktari MD

CEO of e7health and US Drug Test Centers

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Jonathan Baktari MD

Jonathan Baktari, MD brings over 20 years of clinical, administrative and entrepreneurial experience to lead the current e7 Health team. He has been a triple board-certified physician with specialties in internal medicine, pulmonary and critical care medicine. He has been the Medical Director of The Valley Health Systems, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, Culinary Health Fund and currently is the CEO of two healthcare companies.
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