Improving Communication with Your Healthcare Provider
Discussions with your healthcare provider, be they in-person or online, can sometimes feel rushed or uncomfortable, or you may have difficulty following because you feel unwell. All this can hamper achieving answers to essential questions that can affect your treatment plan.
To ensure you get the most out of these talks, here are four tips on improving communication and building trust with your healthcare provider.
Make a list
The National Institute of Health suggests that before or after visits with your doctor or other healthcare providers, you write down all questions or concerns you have. Here are a few ideas:
- What are my medication options?
- Should I be concerned about this pain/lump/feeling?
- What procedures (MRI, X-ray, CT scan, etc.) will help pinpoint my issue?
- Will losing/gaining weight help my condition?
- Are alternative treatment options available?
Writing down questions while fresh in your mind will ensure you remember them during your consultation. You can also keep a diary to track unusual symptoms or take at-home tests for blood pressure, for example. A comprehensive overview of a health issue can help a provider tremendously. You can even go online, print off and fill out helpful health information sheets.
Bring these diary entries and sheets to your next appointment or email them to your doctor (if they have a secure server) and have them call you or email you back with the answers you are seeking.
Compile and bring updates to your insurance information so the office can efficiently file your claim after each visit and check to ensure a test or treatment is covered.
Lastly, bring paper and a pen to your appointment. You or someone accompanying you can write down pertinent information the doctor shares, minimizing the risk of miscommunication about medications, lab tests and treatment options.
Be upfront about all medications you take
To avoid harmful drug interactions, always bring the herbal supplements, vitamins, prescriptions and over-the-counter medications you regularly take to any initial visit with a healthcare provider. The doctor can then confirm dosage levels and medication type and will create an accurate list for your charts to prevent drug interference with any future medications they may prescribe.
You should also take care to mention any religious or cultural traditions you follow, such as fasting during parts of the week or year or not eating specific foods, as this can also affect your treatment plan.
Make every appointment count
To get the most out of a healthcare visit, always answer questions honestly, even if you find them intrusive or embarrassing. Nobody wants to talk to a stranger about intimate issues, but the provider cannot help you without accurate information. All conversations will remain confidential, so don’t worry.
If you are unsure about something your healthcare provider asks or says, please stop them and have them repeat or reword it until you fully understand. Then, repeat what you think they mean to nip any misunderstanding in the bud.
If English is not your first language and you struggle because of the language barrier, bring along or ask for an interpreter. If the provider speaks too quickly, ask them to slow down. Finally, ask for a written transcript of any treatment plan or other information to have an accurate record of the visit.
Advocate for yourself post-visit
After your appointment, contact your provider immediately if you have an adverse reaction to a medication or are not seeing improvement within the specified time frame. It is also wise to call them if you have any concerns about the correct way to take medication or perform physical therapy exercises.
Additionally, you may have to follow up to ensure they submit claims to your insurance correctly and promptly. Lastly, call to update your chart whenever you have a change in your medical situation (for example, if a different doctor puts you on a new medication or you have lost or gained a lot of weight).
Ultimately, communication with your healthcare provider is essential for optimal health and wellbeing. Open dialogue will allow both parties to understand each other better and come up with treatment plans that are best suited for you and your individual needs.
By being prepared and actively engaged during appointments, it is possible to foster an environment of trust and understanding between doctor and patient. Through improved communication, issues can now be resolved in a more effective manner leading to improved outcomes for everyone involved.
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