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Lesson 2: Communicate Better with Your Doctor

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009
At the Oklahoma Brain Tumor Foundation I spend quite a bit of time with our patients and caregivers addressing problems they have talking with their doctors. Especially when dealing with a brain tumor you have vocabulary barriers that sometimes make it difficult to understand what your doctor is telling you. Sometimes your physician may talk over your head without realizing it. However, there are things you can do to improve your relationship with your doctor and medical staff that will help them communicate with you more effectively. The following are some tips:

  • If you have several health concerns to discuss, let the receptionist know ahead of time when booking the appointment so they can allow more time in the doctor's schedule for you.
  • Be sure to tell your doctor about any current and past health care issues or concerns. It's important to share any information you can, even if you're embarrassed.
  • Create a “health journal” for yourself on paper or in a notebook, and bring it to your appointments. Keep track of problems you are having, the time of day they occur, did you eat before and what did you eat, etc. This will help your doctor when making a diagnosis.
  • Bring any medicines you are taking with you or create a list of all your medicines. Include information about when and how often you take the medicine and the strength. If you are experiencing side effects from your medicine(s), especially if it makes you feel sick or if you think you may be allergic to it. Be sure to include any vitamins or supplements you take.
  • If you are being seen for a life threatening illness it is always recommended that you never attend an appointment alone. You should always take a family member or friend along with you.
  • Take notes at your appointment or have your family member/friend take notes for you.
  • If you have to go alone to an appointment, take a tape recorder to record the conversation with your doctor so you can listen to it as many times as necessary for instructions and information.
  • If you are having problems understanding your doctor, let them know that you need further clarification. Tell them you don't understand what they are talking about.
  • Never ever leave an appointment feeling lost and not understanding what was said and what the next steps are in your health care.
Posted by Nancy Thomason

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