Communication is the key to building a good relationship with your doctor and getting the best possible care. Here are seven steps to good communication:

  1. Be prepared.
    • If you are seeing a doctor for the first time, make sure before you go to your appointment that the doctor accepts your health insurance.
    • Think about what you would like to ask the doctor before your appointment. Better yet, write it down so you do not forget.
    • Bring all of your health insurance cards with you -Medicare, Medicaid, Medigap or any other relevant documents.
    • Bring a copy of your health history, a document where you have recorded the dates and results of past tests, major illnesses, hospitalizations, medications, chronic illnesses, allergies, and a family history of physical and mental illnesses.
    • Bring a pen and paper so you can write down what your doctor says.
    • Think about whether you would like to take another person, like a caregiver, with you.


  2. Share information.
    • Tell your doctor about any current symptoms; if there are several, rank them in order of which ones you think are the most troubling.
    • Tell your doctor if you are having trouble with daily activities (like bathing or dressing).
    • Do not be embarrassed. Health issues can be hard to talk about, but it is important that your doctor has all the information so they can recommend the best possible care.
    • Do not wait to be asked. If your doctor does not specifically ask for information you think is important, tell them.


  3. Ask questions.
    • If you do not understand something your doctor says, ask them to explain it.


  4. Record information.
    • Write down what your doctor says; you may think you will remember everything the doctor said, but you would be surprised how much most people forget. Another option: ask your doctor if you can bring a small tape recorder.


  5. Get it in writing.
    • Ask your doctor to write down what you should do between now and your next visit. This may include instructions for how to take medications or lifestyle modifications.


  6. Don’t be rushed, but be polite.
    • If you do not feel like you have had enough time to ask all your questions, let the doctor know. But be aware that they probably need to meet with other patients. If they do not have more time during your appointment, you may ask if there is a good time to talk by phone, or if a nurse might be available to take your questions.


  7. Follow up.
    • If you realize afterwards that you have questions, if you have symptoms that get worse, or if you need to make a test appointment or find out test results, call your doctor. Many doctors now will answer e-mail questions from their patients. Find out if this is a possibility.