Talking with your doctor is major step to good health

Have you ever left the doctor’s office unsure of what the doctor said or what you should do next? You are not alone.

People make mistakes with their medications or following their doctor’s recommendations because of poor communication. It is important for your health to make sure you understand what your doctor is telling you. The following information from the National Institutes of Health can help you make the most of your visit.

First, realize that you are a member of your team. Think of it as a partnership. Learn to ask questions and to speak up, whether it is about new symptoms you are experiencing or asking about other options.

Don’t be afraid to tell the doctor that you did not understand what was said and would like it explained again. You need to understand so you can make good decisions about your health.

As you prepare to see your doctor, think about what you want to discuss. Make a list to share, such as what symptoms you are experiencing, when it occurs, how long it lasts, and what alleviates it. Write down all these details so that you remember when you are in the office.

Your doctor has limited time to talk to you and having a list will keep you on track. It is especially important that you share any medication side effects or any changes in your health since your last visit.

When you visit your doctor, make sure you have everything you need to enhance communication. If you need hearing aids and glasses, make sure you bring them along. Consider bringing a family member or friend to take notes or help you remember what was discussed. Bring a list of your medications. Your doctor has a list but it isn’t always up to date, especially if there has been a change in dosage since your last visit.

If your doctor is giving you a new diagnosis, it is important you understand. You might ask what caused it, how long will it last or if it is permanent, and how is it treated. You might also ask about what you can do to manage this condition, would it improve with diet or lifestyle changes.

A really helpful technique in helping you understand is to repeat back to the doctor your understanding of what he has told you in your own words. This will help the doctor know if you understand it correctly.

Think of your visit as a dialogue: You share your concerns, your doctor asks questions, you answer them, your doctor decides the best plan of care, you repeat back what you learned during the visit and you ask about anything you do not understand, your doctor answers the questions.

If you realize that you have questions after getting home, call the doctor’s office. There are staff available that can often answer your questions.

Ultimately, you are responsible for your own health. Your doctor will set you in the right direction to improve or maintain your health but it is up to you to make sure you understand what the doctor orders.

 Annette Selk is a nurse at the Sheboygan County Division of Public Health and Aging & Disability Resource Center and is a member of the HSC2020 Health Literacy committee.