How to Talk to Your Doctor

Jan. 13, 2022

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Starting a conversation with your doctor or health care provider can be intimidating. It is important, though, that you feel comfortable asking questions and taking an active role in your medical care. 

“It is your health and your body. It is important for you to have input into your own care, whether it is a medication or procedure,” says Dr. Lloyd Kapp, a medical director with BlueChoice® HealthPlan. “The doctor or provider is there to guide your treatment.” 

Here are a few ways to start the conversation. 

Have a plan 

Your visit might be quick, but understanding your care choices is very important. Going into your appointment knowing what you want to discuss or any concerns you have will be important. 

Your visit may be only 15 – 20 minutes. Know what topics you want to address. Write down any questions you may have beforehand so that you don’t forget to ask something important. 

Remember, you know yourself and your body best. Communicating your concerns with your doctor is vital. 

Build a relationship 

You might view visiting your doctor as a yearly chore or something you do only when you are sick. Even so, it is critical to have a doctor you know and trust. 

“Health is very personal. You may have health concerns that are very uncomfortable or difficult to talk about. Having a doctor you feel comfortable talking with and being able to bring up all aspects of how you are feeling is really important,” Kapp says. 

Be open 

The best way for doctors or other care providers to offer the right care at the right time is for you to be open, honest and clear about any concerns or worries. 

When doctors ask for information that might feel embarrassing, it is important to be honest. Your honest answers will help your doctor find the right treatment or diagnosis. 

There may be things you discuss with your doctor that you wouldn’t talk about with a family member or close friend. But remember, anything you talk about with your doctor is protected by privacy laws. 

Don’t be afraid to ask 

Sometimes the information your doctor shares may be overwhelming. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If a doctor is using too many unfamiliar medical terms, ask for clarification. 

“When you ask questions of your doctor, it helps you better understand a potential diagnosis or treatment plan,” Kapp says. 

If you have a concern, don’t be afraid to let them know. 

Be a team 

If your doctor recommends treatment, ask questions and make decisions. Take an active role in your own treatment. 

Not sure what to ask? Start with these five questions: 

  1. Do I really need this test or procedure? 
  2. What are the risks and side effects? 
  3. Are there simpler, safer options? 
  4. What happens if I don’t do anything? 
  5. How much does this treatment cost, and will my insurance pay for it? 

“It is important for patients to understand that doctors don’t always come up with a specific diagnosis. That can be frustrating. But knowing how to communicate with them will help you make sense of your own health,” Kapp says. 

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