Ten Tips for Effective Communication With Your Doctor

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Doctor with patient

Have you ever had a frustrating doctor’s appointment, either with yourself, or with one of your children?  Maybe you didn’t feel like you had enough time, the doctor was distracted, or something else just left you feeling less than taken care of?  Just like any other relationship, the doctor-patient relationship can be tough, and is founded on great communication. Dr. Karen Trollope-Kumar, a family physician, has some quick tips to help make sure that both you and your doctor make it out of your appointment frustration-free.

1.     If you are seeing the doctor for a complicated issue ask the receptionist to book you a longer appointment.
2.     Prepare what you’re going to say ahead of time, and keep it concise and focused.
3.     If you’ve done some research on the Internet about your problem and want to share it with your doctor, make sure you use reputable sites to get that information.  Doctors get frustrated when patients bring in reams of information of dubious value.
4.     Avoid coming into the doctor’s office with a list of unrelated problems – focus on your main concern for that visit.
5.     If you are going in to get results of an important test, bring a friend or relative with you. Sometimes it can be hard to remember what the doctor has said, especially when the topic is emotionally laden.
6.     If you have a particular worry about a symptom (for example, Could this be cancer?), express that concern to the doctor.
7.     If the doctor advises a treatment you don’t feel comfortable with, explain your reasons, and see if an alternative approach would be possible.
8.     Keep your follow up appointment, and at that time let the doctor know how well (or not) the treatment has worked.
9.     If you’re not happy with the service you’re getting, communicate this clearly but politely, using “I” statements.  (for example, “I feel concerned about how long it took to receive these test results.”)
10.  If you’re happy with the service you’re getting from your doctor, a word of thanks or a card is always appreciated. Doctors are human too!
Improving communication requires work on the part of both the doctor and the patient. Working together, patients and family doctors can form great partnerships if they keep communication at the forefront of their relationship.
Dr. Karen Trollope-Kumar is a family physician and author of Cloud Messenger: Love and Loss in the Indian Himalayas. For more information, please visit www.karentrollopekumar.com.

Do you have any tips to share on how you have worked with your doctors to keep you and your family healthy?


  1. My Teen Guide says

    We have a very good family doctor. She is very accommodating and provided us with different ways to contact her in an emergency or when we just need to ask her about disease related questions. I hope all doctors would be like her because she shows true compassion.

  2. says

    These are great tips. Sometimes doctor’s visits can be frustrating especially when you were not able to point out all your concerns. Number 5 is very important.

  3. Sari says

    Great pointers here. If physician has to have the proper etiquette towards to their patients. It’s fair enough that patient’s also needs to practice the right etiquette towards their doctor.

  4. Annemarie LeBlanc says

    Awesome tips! I always make a list of the symptoms I have felt/noticed two weeks prior to my doctor’s appointment. I also bring blood pressure readings, and so with blood sugar readings too. I also believe in seeking a second opinion from a different doctor.

  5. says

    Doctors are such an interesting thing. And it all becomes more challenging when you have children and are separated from the other parent. Trying to make sure everyone is on the same page with things is a struggle.

  6. says

    Some very good points! Remember to be honest with your doctor too! If you are cheating on a diet or not taking your meds but tell a doctor you are it isn’t hurting him/her but is preventing you from getting the best consultation.

  7. says

    I haven’t been keeping up with my yearly physicals, but when I go, I always forget to ask questions that I have had on my mind!

  8. says

    I have had to communicate with a lot of doctors in my day. I have learned how to communicate with them. It is tough. You have some great tips to help people out when they are having trouble.

  9. Pam says

    A good doctor-patient relationship is so important to getting the best care. These are great tips.

  10. says

    These are great tips. I have been with the same doctor for a few years now, and he makes sure to spend enough time with each of his patients and he is very thorough.

  11. says

    These are all wonderful tips. I try to follow all of them pretty closely. I do not want to annoy the doctor but I do want to get my point across awesome.

  12. says

    Those are great tips you have listed. I believe communication between doctor-patient is very important and must be mutual. It is a relationship afterall that needs to be work out by both parties in order to achieve desired result.

  13. Angelic Sinova says

    These are great tips for having more effective communication with your doctor! It’s so important to communicate with your doctor what exactly is bothering you so they can better help you.

  14. says

    Hard to even get in to see a doctor anymore, seems like all we ever get to see is a PA unless we throw a fit. I always try to write down any questions so I don’t forget. Wonderful tips.

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