Talking with Your Health Care Provider

Good health care depends on a good relationship with your health care provider. The key is quality communication, so that your physician can understand your needs and meet those needs. In today’s world of hurried visits and multiple providers, learning how to communicate well is more important than ever.

The first step, of course, is selecting a provider who makes you feel comfortable and confident that you’ll receive proper care. If you’re seeing a physician for the first time, here are some tips to help you develop and sustain a positive working relationship:

  • Get to know the support staff. They can be great conduits to the provider and may be able to answer some of your questions.
  • Write down your questions and concerns. Review the list with your provider at the beginning of the appointment and, together, determine which are most important, to be answered first.
  • Create a system to remember your provider’s answers. It’s best not to rely solely on recall. You can do this in a few ways:
  1. Take notes.
  2. Ask if you can record the conversation for later review. Hand-held digital recorders retail for under $100.
  3. Bring a family member or friend with you to your appointment. Your companion can help you remember what you wanted to discuss as well as the answers. Be careful, however, that your companion doesn’t become the focus of the conversation. You’re the patient, and you should take center stage.
  • Ask questions about any proposed treatment or solution. Don’t feel rushed to accept any recommendations.
  • Be sure you understand any follow-up that’s necessary and make the appointments before you leave the office.

You also have responsibilities in this relationship:

  • Share any changes in your health or medication with your provider.
  • Follow up on agreed-upon treatment recommendations or report to your provider why you are not proceeding.

It’s also a good idea to find out how your physician prefers to communicate with you. Some practices are now using email, which can be a great time-saver for routine questions. If you’re not always available to take a phone call, let your provider and office staff know if you’ll receive detailed messages. Providers are very concerned about privacy, but playing phone tag all day is frustrating for everyone.

What if, after all that effort, you don’t feel the professional relationship is working? Before moving on, try speaking with your provider to see if you can work out your concerns. You may need a special appointment to make time for this discussion. If the practice has a manager, he or she may be able to mediate any issues.

But if the situation doesn’t improve, it may be time to find a new physician. Given the limitations on openings in medical practices, it’s wise to have a new provider in place before giving notice to an old one.

A version of this article originally appeared on

President of Deborah Fins Associates, PC, since 1995, Deborah Liss Fins is a licensed independent clinical social worker and certified geriatric care manager. Drawing on more than 30 years of professional experience in geriatric care management, DFA offers comprehensive assessments and planning, guidance in selecting appropriate care, help identifying resources for financial support and professional consulting.

This entry was posted in Managing Your Care and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.