How to Make Sure You and Your Doctor Communicate Effectively

breast reconstructionYour relationship with your doctor is a partnership, and one of the best ways you can help each other is to communicate effectively. You’ll avoid misunderstandings and hurt feelings, and the two of you can quickly move forward in your treatment. When it’s time for your next appointment, using the following tips can make a positive difference in your relationship.

Always be as honest and as specific as possible.

Even if you’re uncomfortable, tell the truth—your doctor can’t successfully treat you otherwise. If you’re not sure how to answer a question, say so instead of guessing. Your answers should be as specific as possible, even if you need to add more information or ask questions before replying.

Don’t be afraid to ask or tell your doctor anything—he or she has literally heard it all.

Listen, and then ask questions.

Sometimes while the doctor is talking, patients have an emotional reaction that prevents them from hearing the rest of what the doctor has to say. Listen to everything the doctor says, try not to react right away and let it process for a moment, and then ask questions.

Note anything unusual, and write down your questions before you go.

Keep a calendar or day planner with you, and jot down any symptom that is unusual for you. The night before you go to the doctor, make a note of these symptoms as well as questions you have. Often we go to the doctor with a list of questions in our head, and then forget what we wanted to ask. This step will save time for both of you during the appointment.

Never ignore unusual pain, discharge, or bleeding. Contact your doctor immediately.

Tell your doctor about everything you take.

Make a list of your medications and any dietary supplements you take, including vitamins and aspirin. Be sure to note dosage size and frequency. Give the list to your doctor for your file, and send a copy to your pharmacist. Update these lists at least once or twice a year.

Don’t be offended by non-medical questions.

Your doctor might ask about your job or what you do on weekends, and this is not to pry, but to evaluate how your lifestyle might be affecting your health. Stress, eating habits, and alcohol consumption may be factors in your condition.

Let your doctor know if he or she doesn’t communicate well with you.

Your doctor needs to know if his or her communication style isn’t effective. Think back on your last few appointments. Did he or she say anything that upset you, and was everything explained in a way you could understand? Were you comfortable talking with him or her?

Give your doctor specific suggestions to improve your partnership. If you’re not comfortable doing that in person, send an email or leave a voice mail after hours on the doctor’s private line.

Your doctor is there to help you—and he or she can do a much better job when you have built a relationship based on trust and good communication. This process can take a little time but is well worth the effort.

What do you and your doctor do to create effective communication?