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Getting the best possible medical care doesn’t always involve sophisticated technology or the latest medications. Sometimes a good conversation with your doctor can make all the difference.
That’s because your doctor relies on the information you provide to help guide your care. He or she needs to hear about your symptoms to diagnose accurately. If you are reluctant to tell your doctor all your symptoms, a proper diagnosis can be missed.
Of course, you depend on information from your doctor, too. You need the doctor to explain—in ways you can understand—what you should be doing to get or stay healthy.
All of this requires good communication—something that may be easier if you keep these points in mind:
Your Doctor Won’t Find Anything Embarrassing
It’s not easy to share certain symptoms or details about your lifestyle or personal life. Remember, your doctor is there to help, and he or she has probably heard similar things from other patients.
Everything you tell your physician is confidential and protected by patient privacy regulations.
Make Sure your Doctor has all the Facts
Don’t assume that if your doctor doesn’t bring something up, it’s not important. Often, it’s helpful to make lists before your appointment. Include things like your current medical conditions, family health history, past surgeries, and allergies. List all your medications, including prescription and over-the-counter products, vitamins, and dietary or herbal supplements.
Deciding which treatment will be most effective also may depend on which medicines you’re using right now. “It is very useful to bring all of the medications that you are taking in a bag to your office visit so that your physician can review them,” says Dr. Nicholas Bellanco, a primary care physician. “Even concerns about paying for your medicines are important to share as this barrier could prevent you from following your doctor’s treatment recommendations, and your doctor may be able to choose a cheaper alternative medical therapy.”
It can also be good to write down any symptoms and questions you want to ask the doctor.
Be an Active Listener
Pay careful attention to what your doctor says. If anything concerns you or is unclear, ask for clarification and obtain a written discharge summary to bring home for review. Some people find it helpful to take notes or ask the doctor to write things down. It may also be worthwhile to bring someone with you who can act as a second pair of ears.
“The doctor-patient relationship is a very important interaction that helps you stay healthy and can be viewed like a marriage in that it needs to be based on mutual respect and trust between parties,” Dr. Bellanco says.
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