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July 11, 2014

5 tips for better communication with your doctor

As a global services company, Best Doctors is focused on delivering medical certainty to people, regardless of where they are in the world. Our colleagues in Europe recently compiled the top 5 tips for better communication with your doctor, which have been slightly adapted and shared here, proving that best practices for doctor-patient interaction are universal anywhere across the globe…

Being a patient doesn’t mean being a passive recipient of medical knowledge, and the patient-doctor relationship is definitely a two-way street. Good communication with your doctor is fundamental to ensuring a correct diagnosis, the most appropriate treatment and the most lasting results. The next time you visit your doctor, keep these five tips in mind:

hand_on_shoulder1. Trust your doctor. If you approach your upcoming doctor’s visit with just one idea, let it be this one. A trusting relationship with your doctor allows you to work together as a team on your diagnosis and treatment in an open and honest way. This doesn’t mean you blindly accept everything your doctor says, but if you start with feelings of distrust, you are more likely to hide important details or not follow treatment advice, leading to a higher likelihood of misdiagnosis or poor clinical outcome.

2. Be honest. “Forgetting” or being too embarrassed to discuss your lifestyle habits, medication or previous conditions will only make it more difficult for your doctor to diagnose or treat you appropriately. Now is not the time to say that you are a non-smoker and exercise 5 days a week if this is not the case. No one is perfect, and the chances are that what sounds “bad” or embarrassing to you is something your doctor has seen time and again. Remember, your doctor is not there to judge you, but to help you.

3. Speak up. The same goes for those little questions that arise from our inner voice. Remember an incident from a few years ago that could be related? Wondering about the effect of your medication and a vitamin supplement you are taking? Tell your doctor. Don’t wait for the next visit, or for symptoms to get worse. It could be much more important than you think.

4. Stick to the point. Not having enough time to deal with your questions and concerns thoroughly is a serious challenge. A bit of small talk at the beginning of the consultation is fine to break the ice, but keep it to a minimum. Your doctor is not scoring you on personality and will not take it personally if you get right down to the purpose of your visit. One idea is to write down your main questions and concerns beforehand so you can refer to them as a guide during the appointment.

5. Be the patient … not the doctor. Being tuned into your symptoms and aware of any research related to your condition is positive and proactive. However, informing your doctor all about your internet search findings before he or she has had a chance to say anything can be counter-productive. Not only are you wasting valuable consultation time but you are also putting indirect pressure on your doctor to agree with you. No one likes that feeling, to say nothing of the potential risk of misdiagnosis that doing this entails.