Communicating with your Health Care Professionals

Currently in health care, most of us have more than one physician whom we see. It is important to develop a partnership with the health care professional, especially your primary care physician. It is your primary care doctor who should be making referrals to specialists and coordinating your overall medical care.

Your primary care physician should be someone with whom you feel comfortable sharing your physical, mental and emotional issues, who is accessible to you both in person and by telephone and/or email and who will help you weigh medical options. It is up to us, the patients, to let our doctors know that that is what we need and expect.

There are some important basic steps to use when seeing your physician:
• Make a list of past and current healthcare issues.

• Have a list of ALL your medications as well as dosage and when they are taken (include both prescriptions and over the counter meds).

• Be specific regarding the reason for the current visit: be prepared to discuss the symptoms you are having, the time of onset, how they have progressed, any attempts you have made to alleviate them and the results.

• Discuss with your doctor any changes these symptoms may be causing in your emotional state or any changes in your emotional state that may be contributing to your physical health status.

• Go with notes and take notes during the visit. Ask questions until you have a clear understanding of the doctor’s findings, recommendations and expectations of treatments.

If you have any barriers to communication, there is another step to consider. Barriers might be hearing impairment, vision impairment, or cognitive impairment. Should any or all of those exist, it is essential that you have a trusted companion with you during the health care visit so that that person can serve as your ears, eyes or memory in the office and afterward.

When you have completed a health care visit, continue to communicate with your doctor by telephone or email to advise him/her of the results of the planned interventions, i.e. are the prescribed medications giving the expected results, are there new symptoms that may be medication side effects. If an additional test was discussed and has not yet been scheduled, or if you have not received results of that test, tell your doctor.

Your doctor will appreciate your consideration of his/her time and will be more responsive to you and your issues when you communicate your commitment to working in partnership and communicating openly.

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