How to Communicate With Your Health Care Provider
When you and your health care provider communicate well regarding health and personal issues, your health benefits. You and your provider become partners in meeting your health care needs.
You feel free to ask for more information and discuss the risks and benefits of your treatment options.
You're also more likely to understand your medical condition, enabling you to follow through with your treatment plan. In turn, your health care provider listens to your concerns and offers clear explanations about your condition and the recommended treatment.
"When you and your doctor aren't communicating as well as you could, important questions can go unasked and unanswered, adequate information may not be offered and alternative treatment options may not be considered," says Pauline Salvucci, M.A., founder and president of Self Care Connection LLC, in Portland, Maine.
When problems arise because a health care provider and patient are out of step, the result is costly for everyone involved. The drain on individuals, as well as the larger health care system, is enormous.
Steps to take
Consider your relationship with your health care provider. Could it improve? If you're not sure, ask yourself the following questions:
Do I need to ask more questions or get clearer information from my health care provider?
Do I need or want a better understanding of my treatment plan?
Has my health care provider discussed all my treatment options with me?
Do I tell my health care provider when something is unclear or when I don't understand what he or she says?
Does my health care provider answer my questions in a way that helps me understand my condition and its treatment?
Are there some things I don't like about the way my health care provider communicates with me? What are these things?
Your answers to these questions can help you develop new lines of communication with your health care provider now and in the future, but only if you make the time and have the courage to bring them to your provider's attention.
Because health care providers generally are allowed no more than 10 to 15 minutes with each patient, it's best to focus on only one problem in each visit. If you have several problems to discuss, you may need to schedule several visits to your provider. Write down any questions you have before your visit so you won't forget to ask them.
"Being assertive and acting as your own health care advocate is practicing good self-care," says Ms. Salvucci. "Working to improve your communication with your doctor makes your health care a priority for you and your doctor, and it gives your doctor the opportunity to be a better health care provider."