How to talk to your doctor

Whether you’re going to the doctor for a routine checkup, or feeling brave enough to finally find out what that nagging pain is about, get the most out of the short time you have with your doctor by laying the foundation for a good relationship.

Woman at doctors office

Research shows that patients who have good relationships with their doctors and play an active role in their health care are more satisfied and ultimately have better, more-positive outcomes.

1Talk, talk, talk

Don’t wait to be asked questions – open up and give your doctor information that includes:

  • Your health history (more than what you filled out on the questionnaire at registration)
  • Symptoms you are experiencing
  • Tell him or her what you think might be causing the problem
  • Recent changes in your life (something that is causing you stress, for example)
  • List the vitamins and supplements you take
  • Talk about any special diets and outline what your typical exercise routine includes
  • Be sure to tell your doctor about any herbal or alternative medicines you may have tried or are thinking about trying

2Be honest

Your doctor has probably heard and seen it all, so don’t be bashful or hide anything that may seem embarrassing. Talk openly and honestly about all of the details and fears that you may have. For example, if you are afraid that your headache is due to a brain tumor, now’s the time to say it out loud. This shows your doctor that you are genuinely concerned.

3Come prepared

While it may seem a little bizarre to carry around your family’s health histories, it may prove to be a valuable tool when it comes to diagnosing something that may be afflicting you. Be sure to bring any x-rays, films, or test results, and a complete list of the medications you are currently taking.

4Get information

The best way to get the information you need is simply to ask questions. Ask about anything that might seem unclear to make sure you understand everything before you leave the office. You may want to consider writing a list of questions so you don’t forget what they were. Take notes and ask for written instructions, as well as informational packets that you can take home with you. If it makes you feel better, bring along a buddy to listen to what the doctor says, as well as for moral support.


If you have any follow-up questions, or experience any worsening symptoms or side effects that may be due to new medication, be sure to call your doctor right away. If you had tests and have been waiting a while for the results, don’t hesitate to call and get the status.

The typical doctor face time at appointments is only 15-minutes on average, so make each minute count by knowing how to talk to your doctor and partnering up for a solid healthcare relationship.

More on healthy doctor-patient relationships