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Talking to Your Healthcare Provider: Play an Active Role

Talking to Your Healthcare Provider: Play an Active Role

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

Man talking with healthcare provider.

Tell the truth

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

Talk about things that affect your health

Your healthcare 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 healthcare 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 each word your healthcare provider says. Just write down the main points. Bringing a family member or friend to take notes may be helpful. Ask your provider if you can record your conversation.

Look at your healthcare provider

Making eye contact shows you're listening. And it helps you get more out of the discussion.

Repeat back

Say something like “What I hear you saying is...” This shows you're listening and understanding. And it 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 their staff off schedule.

Call your provider if you're going to be late. Ask if it's OK to come late, or if you should reschedule.

If you're having a medical test, follow your healthcare provider’s instructions

For some medical tests, you need to not eat or drink (called fasting) for a certain period of time before the test. For others, you need to take medicine. Be sure you understand how you need to get ready for your medical test.

Do what your healthcare provider asks

Your healthcare provider may give you instructions about things such as medicine use, tests, diet, or exercise.

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

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

Talk about over-the-counter medicines

If you're receiving treatment, ask your provider which over-the-counter medicine you can take.

Take prescription medicines as instructed

Know the name of your medicines, why you need to take them, and how long you need to take them and any side effects that should be reported. Ask if there's another treatment you could try instead of medicine. If adding a new medicine, ask if you really need another medicine. Don’t take more or less than your healthcare provider prescribed. Don’t stop taking your medicine without talking to your provider first.

Make sure your primary healthcare provider is kept up-to-date

If you're seeing a specialist, ask them to let your primary healthcare provider know how you're doing.

Ask your healthcare provider how to contact them

Find out if there are certain times during the day when your healthcare provider takes phone calls, or if they prefer a different way to communicate. Ask who to call if you need an answer right away.