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Talking to Your Health Care Provider: Play an Active Role

To get the most out of your health care, take an active role. This means thinking of every health care provider as a partner in your care. Below are things you can do to help that partnership go smoothly.

Man talking to doctor.

Tell the truth

To get the best possible care, you need to be honest with your health care provider.

Talk about things that affect your health

Your provider has a limited amount of time to spend with you. Don’t waste time on small talk. If you can’t discuss all your concerns, schedule a follow-up visit.

Don’t be afraid to talk about sensitive subjects

Keep in mind that your provider is used to talking about personal matters.

Stay focused

Try not to think about what your provider said 5 minutes ago or what you will say next.

Take notes

When you write down what you hear, you listen more carefully. Don’t write down every word your provider says, just the main points.

Look at your health care provider

When you make eye contact, you show you are listening and you get more out of the discussion.

Don’t close yourself off

Try not to cross your arms in front of your body or slouch down in your seat. You send the message that you don’t want to talk.

Repeat back

Say something like “What I hear you saying is...” This shows you are listening and understanding, and gives your provider a chance to correct any mistakes. 

Keep all your appointments

If you can’t make it, call as soon as you know.

Be on time

When a patient is late for an appointment, it can throw the provider and his or her staff off schedule.

If you are having a medical test, follow your health care provider’s instructions

For some medical tests, you need to fast (not eat or drink). For others, you need to take medication.

Do what your health care provider asks

Your provider may give you instructions concerning things such as medication use, diet, or exercise.

If you can’t follow your health care provider’s instructions, be sure to speak up

Whether your medication makes you sick or you can’t give up junk food, let your provider know. Together, you may be able to solve the problem.

Talk about over-the-counter drugs

If you are receiving treatment, ask your provider which over-the-counter drugs you can take.

Take prescription drugs as instructed

Don’t take more or less than your doctor prescribed. Don’t stop taking your medication without talking to your doctor first.

Make sure your primary doctor is kept up-to-date

If you are seeing a specialist, ask the specialist to let your primary doctor know how you are doing.

Ask your health care provider how to contact him or her

Find out if there are certain times during the day when your provider takes phone calls. Ask who to call if you need an answer right away.

© 2000-2015 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.