How to talk with your doctor

Picture of woman and doctor for article about how to prepare for a doctor visit

Be an active member of your own healthcare team. Consider the following tips:

  1. Write down questions for your healthcare provider before your visit, and be sure to ask them during the visit.
  2. Bring a “health history” list with you, and keep it up to date.
  3. Always bring any medicines you are taking, or a list of those medicines, (include when and how often you take them) and what strength.
  4. Bring other medical information, such as X-ray films, test results, and medical records.
  5. Ask questions. If you don’t, your doctor may think you understand everything that was said.
  6. You might want to bring someone to the appointment with you. Because of the emotion that may be involved with what’s being discussed, your mind could be full with other thoughts. This person can ask questions and help you understand and remember what was discussed.
  7. Take notes and/or ask for written instructions. You could ask the doctor to draw you a picture, too.
  8. If you have questions after your appointment, call.

It’s okay to talk back to your doctor. Is the doctor speaking in a language you understand? Be sure that you can repeat back the doctor’s instructions in your own words. That way you can be sure you know what the doctor is telling you. If instructions can’t be shared in a simple way that a five-year-old could follow, then it’s probably more difficult than it needs to be. has interactive tools that may help you prepare for your healthcare visits and to lead a healthy lifestyle. Do you know your risk for depression? The Depression: Patient health questionnaire can help you learn some of the signs and symptoms of depression and help you talk to your doctor about how you’ve been feeling.

Who is affected?
All people, regardless of how much money they earn or their skin color, can have trouble understanding healthcare information. This can affect anyone and is not necessarily related to education level or reading ability.

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