Back in the day, our elders would go to their doctors and typically just listened; they never bothered to ask questions. Maybe they were embarrassed, shy, or perhaps thought that questioning their physicians would be the wrong thing to do.
These days, we know better!
We now understand that the only way to have an active role in our own health care is by openly and honestly talking to our doctors. A back-and-forth exchange is also how doctors can best tailor advice and treatment.
Here are a few tips that can help you talk to your doctor and make the most of your appointment:
Make an agenda. Doctor’s visits typically last up to 20 minutes, so prioritize your concerns. Before the visit begins, create a list of topics you want to address and introduce them at the start. Keep your agenda simple, discuss the medical problems, fears, or worries that you have about your health. Keep in mind, it’s OK to ask questions. If your doctor is using terminology you don’t understand, ask him to break things down for you in simple language.
Have a caregiver accompany you. Bring a caregiver with you to a doctor’s visit if you think they can help you better interpret what is being stated to you. After all, two sets of eyes and ears are better than one. If the doctor doesn’t speak your native language, your bilingual trusted person can help interpret. Those who are elderly and struggling with forgetfulness or are hard of hearing may need someone to accompany them as well.
Be honest. Open up about your health worries and concerns. Provide the physician with detailed information that will help her get the full picture of your overall well-being and assess lifestyle factors that might contribute to your health. Do not hesitate to mention pain or a feeling that is bothering you, even if it’s embarrassing. Your doctor’s job is to get you on the road to good health.
Take notes. If you need to write down what the doctor says, do so! You can also ask a friend or family member to take notes for you.
Learn how to access health records. Ask how to access your medical records, so you can keep track of test results, diagnoses, treatment plans, and medications.
Ask the doctor to simplify. Ask how to interpret your lab results – what they mean, what is considered the normal range, what should you be concerned about, etc.
Ask for discount drug coupons. Yes, you can ask for coupons to help offset costs for medications that are more expensive. Don’t bite your tongue!
Using these tips strengthens the bond between doctor and patient. Furthermore, it encourages self-advocacy, which is so desperately needed. Talking to our doctors and understanding what they need us to understand leads to better outcomes in the long run.