Good communication with your physician is important if you want to receive the best care your physician can provide. While it is true that your physician is responsible for diagnosing your medical problems and coming up with an appropriate treatment plan for them, he or she can best do this when you provide concise, accurate information about your symptoms. Many people, however, are intimidated by physicians, and consequently do not communicate well with them. What I find works best for me is to write things down on paper before I see my doctor. If I am having a problem, I put down how long ago I noticed it, what over-the-counter treatments I have tried, and how successful those treatments have been. If I have questions about an on-going medical problem, I write them down before my visit. At my appointment, I either refer to my paper when the doctor sees me or I give a copy of what I have written to the doctor. Either way, the doctor will know what my concerns are and can address these concerns during my visit.
Additionally, it is always good to be sure you have an up-to-date list of your medications and dosages when you see your doctor. This is especially true if you have prescriptions from more than one physician. (You want to be sure each physician knows what the other doctor is prescribing for you.) In addition to your prescription medications, it is wise to include any over-the-counter medications, supplements or herbal treatments you use, since these can sometimes interact with prescription medications.
A good resource to help you learn more about how to improve communication with your physician has been published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and is called, Talking with Your Doctor: A Guide for Older People. It is a 44 page booklet that can be viewed on-line, downloaded to your computer, printed on your printer, or ordered from NIH. If you go their website, www.nih.gov, type the name of the publication in their “Search” box, and then click on the first entry that comes up, you will be on the page where the publication is available.
Remember, better communication equals better care.
Elder Care Coordinator