Build Good Patient / Physician Dialogue

Communicate with Medical Staff

In the center of patient-centered care is the relationship between the patient and doctor. It's a very personal one. The medical care specialists at UCSF Medical Center says:

"The relationship with a doctor is a very personal one, built on communication and trust. In choosing a doctor, the "chemistry" between the two of you must work. You must be able to trust, confide in and tell your doctor about your health problems, including all symptoms. Your doctor should listen to you, give you options and feedback and have your best interest in mind."

When preparing for a physician's visit or a hospital surgery, the staff at UCSF Medical Center suggests putting together the following plan to help build an effective doctor-patient partnership.

A Plan for Better Care

Physicians and the office staff are busy. But patients need time to learn about their health and this requires time with the doctor. It's a fine balance. Here's a simple list that I've put together for you to prepare for an office visit. This will keep you better organized and focused on your health issues.

  • Think in advance about the questions you want answered.
  • Write down and prioritize issues, highlighting the three or four.
  • Email the list of the questions to your doctor in advance, so she's prepared.
  • Take the Health Records with you

A well-prepared patient has her health records in one place. They're accurate and have details about your symptoms and medications. This helps the doctor better diagnose your condition and prescribe appropriate treatment.

  • Include medications and supplements you're taking
  • Symptoms and dates of occurrence
  • Recent tests
  • Names of other doctors you see
  • The more you can communicate your needs and concerns, the better your doctor can respond

Set the Tone

Tell the doctor that you want to actively participate in your healthcare. Let her know that you want to know details about prescribed treatments and options. If you have cultural or religious beliefs that affect your choices, be upfront and tell the doctor right away.

  • Be Assertive
  • Take charge of your health
  • Don't be afraid to ask questions.

If the doctor ends your visit without answering everything, speak up! Let her know that your questions are not answered. If you need, set up another appointment or ask someone on the doctor's staff for their help.

Be Understanding

Add respect and understanding to your assertiveness. It's just as important to let the medical care team know that you appreciate them. The office staff has many responsibilities. If you need something from them, ask and give ample time for their answer.

Keep in Touch

Before you leave the appointment, learn the best way to stay connected with them.

  • Through the nurse
  • Email
  • Phone messages

Prepare for Your Next Doctor's Visit

Doctor's enjoy working with patients who keep details of their health, medications, treatments, and insurance records. Before each returning visit, keep a folder handy to take along with you. That folder can contain:

  • Make a list of questions for your appointment.
  • Know your medical history.
  • Write down a brief synopsis to give a new doctor to save time.
  • Keep a journal of the symptoms and concerns. Convey these to your doctor.
  • List medications you are taking with their dosages.
  • Tell your doctor about any medication changes.
  • Let the office know before the appointment, if you need more time for your questions.
  • Tape-record your visit or bring a pencil and notebook to take notes.
  • Bring a friend or relative to take notes for you.
  • Keep discussions focused, making sure to cover questions, symptoms, and how they impact your life.
  • Ask for clarification, if you don't understand what's been told to you.
  • Ask for explanations of treatment goals and side effects.
  • Tell your doctor if you're seeing other health care providers.
  • Share information about any recent medical tests.
  • Stand up for yourself or have a friend or family member advocate for you.
  • Be understanding and appreciative.

To read the full transcript visit: Communicating with your Doctor.

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