Medical Care

Ten Tips for Effective Communication with Your Doctor

Like any healthy relationship, good communication is fundamental and that applies to the doctor-patient relationship as well. When that vital link of understanding is broken between doctor and patient, a cascade of negative consequences can result. If the patient hasn’t been able to fully explain his or her symptoms, an incorrect diagnosis might be made. If the doctor hasn’t clearly communicated his or her assessment of the problem, the treatment plan might fail. Poor communication inevitably leads to dissatisfaction for both doctor and patient.

There are ten quick tips to communicate better with your family doctor, and to make your office visit more effective:

  1. If you are seeing the doctor for a complicated issue, ask the receptionist to book you a longer appointment.
  2. Prepare what you’re going to say ahead of time, and keep it concise and focused.
  3. If you’ve done some research on the Internet about your problem and want to share it with your doctor, make sure you use reputable sites to get that information. Doctors get frustrated when patients bring in reams of information of dubious value.
  4. Avoid coming into the doctor’s office with a list of unrelated problems – focus on your main concern for that visit.
  5. If you are going in to get results of an important test, bring a friend or relative with you. Sometimes it can be hard to remember what the doctor has said, especially when the topic is emotionally laden.
  6. If you have a particular worry about a symptom (for example, could this be cancer?), express that concern to the doctor.
  7. If the doctor advises a treatment you don’t feel comfortable with, explain your reasons, and see if an alternative approach would be possible.
  8. Keep your followup appointment, and at that time let the doctor know how well (or not) the treatment has worked.
  9. If you’re not happy with the service you’re getting, communicate this clearly but politely, using “I” statements. (for example, “I feel concerned about how long it took to receive these test results.”)
  10. If you’re happy with the service you’re getting from your doctor, a word of thanks or a card is always appreciated. Doctors are human, too!


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