Talking to Your Doctor: What Patients Need to Know to Avoid Health Complications

Talking to a doctor can be difficult, regardless of your diagnosis. You may be overwhelmed or frightened, and might not understand some of the terms your doctor has described to you. This can leave you feeling lonely, helpless and with nowhere to turn. However, all patients should be able to talk to their doctors because good communication can help improve the care you receive.

The first thing to remember is you’re the consumer of health care. You’re the one who needs the care the doctors are offering you, so you should be able to feel as though you can talk to your doctor about your diagnosis. Being able to communicate effectively and to know what questions to ask could save your life because you’ll be more aware of your health and potential complications.

For example, there has been a rise in the number of patients whose IVC filters have failed (details from TruLaw). These filters are designed to prevent blood clots from reaching your lungs and heart, but when they fail, this can lead to severe side effects. However, if you were educated about this before, you could put the right preventions in place to stop this from happening to you.

With this in mind, here are some of the ways you can communicate effectively with your health care team:

Start a Journal

It’s important to try and keep all of your health details in one place, so start filing and documenting everything in a notebook or journal. For example, you might want to write down the contact details of your medical team alongside any questions you think of that you want to ask your doctor. If you’re having treatment, you might also want to keep a diary of your treatments, separating your journal into sections to keep things organized.

Write Down a List of Question

Before you go and visit your doctor, be sure to write down any questions you have for them, putting the most important ones at the top of the list. This will ensure you don’t forget any key questions when you visit your health care practitioner, as you can often feel overwhelmed when you’re sat opposite them. It’s crucial you try to keep your questions as specific and short as possible, as your time with the doctor may be limited. But you should always feel confident your questions have been answered thoroughly.

Take Someone with You to Your Appointments

Remembering all of the information your doctor gives you during an appointment can be difficult, which is why it’s a good idea to take someone with you. Sitting with you during your consultation, they may pick up on things that you miss, providing you with an extra set of ears. Your loved one can also ask any questions they might think of and can ask your questions for you if you find it too difficult. And they’ll be great moral support throughout, too.

Jot Down Notes During Your Appointment

Take notes so you don’t forget anything your doctor tells you, writing down treatment options, symptoms or recommended medication. If you can’t do this, you could always ask the person who’s gone with you to do this instead, writing it on a piece of paper or tapping it into their smartphone. Having these notes will enable you to review what the doctor has told you at a later date, providing you with something to refer to when you’re looking into your condition in more detail.

Record What the Doctor Says

If your doctor will let you, why not record the conversation you have? This is a much easier way to make sure you have all of the relevant details and will be something you can play to family and friends so they understand what was said too.

Make Sure You Understand What the Doctor’s Saying

When you’re at your appointment, you may feel as though you can’t ask questions but it’s crucial you’re assertive with your doctor. If you don’t understand something, make sure you ask the doctor to clarify it for you. And if they don’t have time, arrange another appointment with a nurse or someone else who’ll be able to talk through things in more detail with you.

You might also want to repeat back what your doctor has said, as this will help to make sure you’ve fully grasped what they’re telling you. Or, ask your doctor to use visual aids (e.g. X-rays) to show you what they mean.

Oscar Hamilton works at his local GP surgery and is on hand to talk with patients whilst they wait for the doctor whether he’s calming nervous patients or looking up a prescription.