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How to talk with your doctor

3 min read

How to talk with your doctor
Talking to your doctor can be difficult, but, when it comes to your health, communicating clearly is really important. Here's how you can be clear at the doctor's
Discussing embarrassing symptoms while wearing a hospital gown that offers more ventilation than coverage can make it tempting to say “I’m fine”—even when you’re not. Get more from your doctor visits not simply opening your mouth only to say “Ahhh” but by describing symptoms and concerns. 
Here's how you can speak clearly to your doctor and get the treatment you need.

Bring a list of your medications

Bring a list of all prescription and over-the-counter medications you’re taking, as well as any alternative medications or supplements, such as vitamins. Better yet, bring the bottles so you can review why and when to take each pill—and what interacts with what.

Write a script

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Don’t come in with a laundry list of questions and ailments, because you’re not going to leave the office satisfied. This isn’t your only shot with the doctor. It’s an ongoing relationship, so choose a few things you want to focus on at this particular appointment, write them down, and bring them up at the beginning. That way, he doesn’t hear about a serious problem right at the end of the appointment.
"Choose a few things you want to focus on at this appointment and write them down"
For your “script”, use a medical version of Mad Libs, suggests Pamela F Gallin, MD, a clinical professor of ophthalmology and paediatrics at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Centre and author of How to Survive Your Doctor’s Care. If, for instance, you have had stomach pain:
“I’ve had (stomach pain), for (how long). It’s worse when I (context e.g., eat dairy). The pain is (sharp/dull). It’s (mild/severe) and (duration e.g., intermittent/constant). It began (when e.g., spontaneously). When I take (medication), it makes it (effect: all better/no effect).”

Come clean

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Your relationship with your doctor is completely confidential.
"The doctor's office is a safe place and you should open up"
If you’re doing something you’re embarrassed about but want to get it off your chest—perhaps you started smoking again or you’re drinking more alcohol than usual—you’re in a safe place and you should open up.

Come again?

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If you’re uncertain about something the doctor said, don’t be afraid to say so. Try repeating what you heard him say. For instance, say, “Let me make sure I’ve got this right. I’m supposed to take the white pill three times a day with food and the yellow one first thing in the morning. Is that right?” And if you’re still puzzled by his instructions, ask him to explain it in a different way.

Dial D for doctor

Call several days before a check-up to see about getting blood tests done in advance. That way, your practitioner can have results in time for your visit, which may expedite a diagnosis or clarify which additional tests need to be ordered.
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