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How to Talk with Your Doctor

Updated on August 6, 2011
Talk with Your Doctor
Talk with Your Doctor | Source

The person most responsible for the quality of your medical care is you. If you learn how to talk with your doctor you will increase both your understanding of any medical conditions you may have as well as the quality of care you receive. Here are some tips on how to talk with your doctor to get better quality care.

Prepare Thoroughly before an Appointment

Preparation is the key step in getting the best medical care that you can. If you prepare well you will be able to talk with your doctor in ways that will benefit both of you. You will need to be able to completely explain any problems you've had, clearly describe symptoms, provide a complete list of medications and supplements you're taking (including the doses and frequency you take them), and ask crucial questions about your condition(s) and care. The best way to have all these issues at your fingertips is to write them all down. Get help from another adult if necessary, but write everything down as part of your preparation.

If you have any chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, COPD, cancer, etc., you should thoroughly educate yourself about them using trustworthy sources like the National Institutes of Health (, the Mayo Clinic (, the Cleveland Clinic (, and WebMD ( Seniors might also benefit from AARP's website (

Write Things Down

Take paper and pen to your appointment along with the written information and questions you prepared in advance. Then write down the answers your doctor gives you. Ask further questions if you need anything clarified. Don't be shy! Be friendly but assertive when you talk with your doctor.

Maintain a Permanent Record of Test Results and Discussions

It could be very beneficial to you to keep a file of all your test results and discussions with your doctor. You will then be able to review your progress, refresh your memory about your doctor's advice, and more easily prepare for your next appointment.

Ask Questions until You Are Satisfied

One of your most important strategies will be asking questions. To talk with your physician successfully, you'll need to ask a series of questions that will help you to better understand your condition and your doctor's prescriptions and advice. Many of these questions you will be able to prepare in advance. Others you'll need to ask to probe and clarify things your doctor tells you once you're there. If you feel that you are not good at asking questions then take another adult with you to your appointment.

See the link below for specific questions suggested by AARP. It is important to get all the information you can about your diagnosis, prescribed treatment and medications, and any recommended lifestyle changes.

Listen Carefully to the Answers and Medical Advice

Your doctor will probably be very busy. But in the course of a 15 to 20 minute appointment, the doctor can convey a lot of information and advice that you should remember and follow. The key here is to write down the information and advice you receive. You can't always rely on memory to retain information, especially if it is complicated or covers a lot of ground.

Comply with Medication Directions and Your Doctor's Advice

It's no use learning how to talk with your doctor if you don't comply with his or her prescriptions and advice. Full compliance is necessary if you are to carry on a meaningful dialogue with your physician and successfully manage your health.

Important Medical Links


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    • Temirah profile image

      Temirah 6 years ago

      This is really useful information and THANK YOU for including the part about following the Dr's instructions! It's the bane of a medic's life when a patient returns to the clinic saying they're not better when they didn't follow instructions! It's a 2-way street so if a patient doesn't like the proposed treatment s/he should say so; as you say, we responsible for our own health.

      A good doctor will also send a copy of clinic letters between him and your general physician/specialist if you ask.