I recently led an engaging and informative talk about “Talking With Your Doctor: Making the Most of Your 15 Minute Appointment.” I’ve always believed that most of the problems people experience with navigating the health care system are a result of poor communication and coordination. It can be difficult to question providers, know what to ask, and be able to process the information. It is especially challenging to do so when you are emotionally overwhelmed by the situation.
The most important advice is to Speak Up and Ask Questions! It’s your health, so take charge of it. If you don’t understand what the doctor is telling you, ask them to repeat it. Ask questions about medical tests, medications, your diagnosis, treatment options. Speak up about your symptoms, your needs, your values.
Prepare for your appointment as if it’s a business meeting - have an agenda, put your priority items first in case you run out of time, and end the appointment with a clear understanding of what was accomplished and an action plan for next steps.
This brochure about Talking With Your Doctor, from the National Institute on Aging is a great resource for people of all ages about how to prepare for and get the most out of appointments with your doctors. It’s filled with advice, tips, and worksheets. I strongly recommend taking time to look at it and using it to prepare for your next appointment.
Ask me how I can help with your patient-doctor communication… or to schedule a presentation for your organization.