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How to Make Sure Your Doctor Understands Your Medical Condition

Your doctor isn't just a health care provider. She's also part detective, using all the clues and evidence you provide to arrive at a diagnosis and then using that determination to develop an appropriate treatment protocol. It's not always a straightforward process, and it's important that you provide as much information as you can to facilitate arriving at a suitable diagnosis and treatment.

1. Write it Down

Before you visit your doctor, give some thought to what you're experiencing and what information the doctor might need to know. Dr. Kecia Gaither, an OB-GYN and director of perinatal services at NYC Health+Hospitals/Lincoln in Bronx, New York, says that includes being as detailed and thorough as possible in your reporting of your medical history, surgical history and any allergies to medications.

Being detailed in explaining your symptoms and how they're impacting your life is also critical. In describing symptoms, Gaither says she likes "for patients to tell me how the symptom affects their daily activities of living. For instance, does it impair sleeping? Walking? Does it occur with eating? That type of information is helpful."

2. previous medication

Simply knowing and being able to tell your doctor which medications you're taking is perhaps the most important piece of information you can relay to your doctor, Gaither says. "Nothing is more frustrating to a health care provider than to have a patient talk about a 'blue pill' they have been taking for the last five years. There are hundreds of 'blue pills' out there, and that type of answer really doesn't help the health care provider know what you may or may not be taking."

Writing down all your medications, supplements and vitamins – along with the dose and frequency with which you take them – is important to making sure you don't run into potentially dangerous drug interactions. If these medications have been prescribed by a variety of doctors, sharing all of them with one doctor – often your primary care physician – can help that doctor better understand what conditions you're managing and potentially streamline treatment.

3. Ask questions

The importance of asking questions can't be overstated in discussions of how to improve patient-doctor communications. In 2007, the Institute for Healthcare Improvement and the National Patient Safety Foundation developed the Ask Me 3 program to improve health care outcomes by giving patients three concrete questions to ask of their doctors when presented with a diagnosis or treatment information. The aim of these questions is to involve patients more deeply in their own care and to facilitate doctor-patient communication. The three questions are:

  • What is my main problem?

  • What do I need to do?

  • Why is it important for me to do this?

4. Be involve in your care

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