Improving Communication with Your Doctor by Lauren Scherer, LVN

LaurenDo you ever find yourself lost, or maybe even more confused about your health after meeting with a doctor?  You come in for simple cough, and when fancy medical terms such as “acute bronchitis,” “aspiration” or “upper respiratory infection” are thrown in, you may think you’re being diagnosed with something life-threatening!  Or maybe just the opposite- you may not know just how important it is to get proper treatment.

Once upon a time, doctors and other healthcare professionals used medical jargon in front of patients for a few reasons.  For one, it was believed that doctors were essentially shielding their patients from knowing exactly what was wrong with them so as not to further worry them.  Another reason was simply so that doctors could somewhat protect the patient’s privacy when there was potential of others possibly listening.  This was of course before the age of being proactive about one’s own health.  Perhaps way back when then there was a certain level of trust, ignorance, or both, and patients hardly asked questions if any.  However in today’s era, we are discovering just how important it is to be an advocate for our own health, and an important part of being responsible is having a basic understanding in the first place.  There a few ways to ensure that you are getting the most out of your doctors’ visits, and getting the appropriate treatment to stay healthy:

  • First, this is about your health, so be prepared ahead of time and make sure you are familiar with your medical history so you can properly inform your physician.  This includes any medical conditions, medications with their dosages, and any recent tests or treatment you may have had.  Also be sure to write down any questions you have so you don’t forget during the visit.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions or for clarity.  While this one may be obvious, it is especially important when there is a treatment plan involved.  If something was missed, or you weren’t certain how many times a day you were supposed to take that medication, that could be the difference between recovery, or re-injury.
  • Be honest, and clear about your symptoms.  This may also seem like a no-brainer, but there are times when people are shy to admit certain symptoms.  Being open about what you’re experiencing will only help your physician narrow down which tests to order, medication to prescribe, or any other treatment needed.  Remember, doctors are human beings too!
  • Make sure you have your treatment plan in writing.  Ask your provider for discharge instructions at the end of the visit so you have a reference to your diagnosis, treatment plan and any further recommendations.
  • Make sure there is no language barrier.  If you do not understand your provider because your primary language is different, consider bringing someone with you for interpretation, or ask if there is another staff member that is available to help.  Trying to decipher medical lingo, and in another language can be quite the challenge!
  • Don’t nod your head in agreement or mumble “mm-hmms” if you really don’t understand what your doctor is telling you.  This gives the indication that you do in fact understand, and thereby the physician will not feel the need to clarify anything.  Again, if you’re not sure, ask!
  • Repeat back to the doctor what you think you heard, that way you will either get confirmation or clarification.  This will help if there was any miscommunication, and ensure that you’re both on the same boat with your treatment plan.
  • After a recap, leave that door open for future communication, for instance “If I have any questions, I will call your office.”  This way, you feel the freedom to reach out without feeling intimidated or bothersome.  Your doctor will be happy and will help if you should have any questions along the way.

Communication is the first step, and key to taking charge of your own health.  By taking an active role in your care, you will feel more in control of what is happening to you.  Remember, communication is a two-way street between you and your physician; think of it as teamwork to get you back to your healthy self!


The information provided is for general interest only and should not be misconstrued as a diagnosis, prognosis or treatment recommendation. This information does not in any way constitute the practice of medicine, or any other health care profession. Readers are directed to consult their health care provider regarding their specific health situation. Marque Medical is not liable for any action taken by a reader based upon this information.


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