Talking to Your Healthcare Provider: Play an Active Role

Man talking to doctor.

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.

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 healthcare 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 every word your healthcare provider says, just the main points.

Look at your healthcare 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 healthcare 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 healthcare provider and his or her staff off schedule.

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

For some medical tests, you need to fast (not eat or drink). For others, you need to take medicine. Be sure you understand how you need to prepare for your medical test.

Do what your healthcare provider asks

Your healthcare provider may give you instructions concerning things such as medicine use, 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 are receiving treatment, ask your provider which over-the-counter medicine you can take.

Take prescription medicines as instructed

Don’t take more or less than your healthcare provider prescribed. Don’t stop taking your medicine without talking to your healthcare provider first.

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

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

Ask your healthcare provider how to contact him or her

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