Improving Communication With Your Doctors



September 10, 2020

Knowing what to discuss during a doctor’s appointment and how to present your information can make a huge difference in the care you receive. 

For example, most doctor appointments start by speaking about symptoms. If you are vague with their description, it becomes difficult for your doctor to figure out a possible cause or explanation for them. 

How To Talk to Your Doctor

It can be hard to learn how to effectively talk to your doctor. To ensure you have a productive session with your doctor: 

  • Prepare for the appointment

  • Be honest

  • Ask for a follow-up appointment, either to talk about things you didn’t get to discuss or to follow up on what was discussed

  • Ask questions

Your doctors are there to guide you through your treatment and monitor your progress. If you are unable to clearly speak to them about changes in your health, it can be detrimental to your care. 

Here are some ways you can ensure you are communicating effectively to a medical professional, like an oncologist, during your appointments: 

  • Start by talking about your goals for the conversation 

  • Ask open-ended questions

  • Confirm your understanding 

  • Tell them everything (ie. don’t withhold information)

  • Share your goals and aspirations

  • Discuss treatments and next steps

  • Ask for help when it’s needed

Barriers To Effective Communication in Healthcare 

Learning how to communicate effectively is key - not only for you to get the care you need, but also for the doctor to get the information they need to diagnose you. 

Having effective communication is two-sided and both the patient and the doctor must work together for it to happen.

As a patient, there are a number of things that you can do to play your part, such as having all of the contact information of your doctors and caregivers readily available and updated. On top of that, have all of your medical records in your possession and keep a journal with any important notes about your condition, a past or upcoming procedure.

What To Do When You Disagree With Your Doctor

It can be hard to speak up to your doctor, especially if you fear that you will offend them by questioning their expertise. This can happen in a case where you are raising your voice and arguing facts from Google, for example.

You have the best sense of something being wrong with your body. Speak up if you disagree with your doctor, but be sure to do so in a respectful manner by polite, while firm. Express your concerns, ask questions, and talk about why you disagree with them. Your doctor should be able to explain their reasoning or provide more information if you ask them directly in this way.

How To Get Your Doctor To Listen To You

Have you ever found yourself returning to the doctor with the same complaints and symptoms? Your doctor might have said it would go away on its own or prescribed you a medication that didn’t work. 

In cases like this, it’s vital that your doctor takes you seriously. Your health is on the line and follow up visits (plus medications!) are costing you money.

Here are some tips on how to make sure you doctor listens to and addresses your concerns:

  1. Go to appointments with extra information about your condition

  2. Don’t be afraid to bring up your concerns over and over again

  3. Bring someone with you

  4. Keep a list of your symptoms and treatments

  5. Make sure your doctor gets to the root of your symptoms

You know best if something is wrong with your body. If you realize something is not right, make sure you get the care you need by getting your doctor to listen to you.

If your doctor is unable to reach a diagnosis immediately, they might blame your symptoms on something physiological. Unfortunately, it is becoming a trend for doctors to tell their patients that their symptoms are ‘in their head.’ Because of this, patients must be informed and advocate for themselves during appointments. 

What Not To Say To Your Doctor

If you want to maintain a good relationship with your doctor, there are some things that shouldn’t be said during an appointment: 

  • Anything that is not 100% truthful 

  • Anything condescending, loud, hostile, or sarcastic

  • Asking for “favors”

  • Being over demanding

Believe it or not, doctors can also get annoyed at people. If you are expecting their help and hard work, it is important to understand the level of respect that they expect from patients. 

My Doctor Is Not Telling Me What’s Going on

It can be frustrating when you walk into a doctor’s office expecting to leave with answers only to leave with more questions than when you came in. 

This may be due to the fact that your doctor is unable to find a diagnosis for you, which could be for numerous reasons. An example would be that you have a very common symptom, such as a headache, and they are finding it difficult to link that symptom to a diagnosis. 

In cases like this, provide your doctor with as much information by: 

  • Telling your whole story

  • Keeping a journal of your symptoms 

  • Understanding your family’s medical history

  • Being honest

  • Understanding that there might be uncertainty

  • Getting a second opinion

What To Do When Your Doctors Are Not Talking To Each Other 

It should be expected that your doctors speak to one another to provide all necessary information related to your health. 

However, this is not always the case and it can be difficult to control whether or not your doctors communicate with each other. You can encourage communication between doctors by having a primary care doctor, by having copies of your medical records handy, and by asking for and sharing your test results. 

How to Fix Doctor-Patient Relationships

It is crucial that you have a strong relationship with your doctor built on effective communication. 

So what should you do if you start to see a loss of respect from your doctor or don’t feel comfortable in your appointments anymore? The short answer: Speak up.

Here are some simple solutions to common problems

Problem:  Your doctor does not value your input. 

Solution: Ask your doctor to explain. 

Problem: Doctor’s office is disorganized. 

Solution: Tell your doctor. 

Problem: Your doctor doesn’t respect you. 

Solution: Keep your goals in mind and let your doctor know. 

Problem: Your doctor is withholding information about your health. 

Solution: Ask your doctor for more information.