Skip to Main Content

Effectively Communicating with Your Doctor

Receiving the news of a serious diagnosis is life-changing, and chances are the last thing from your mind is having open and effective communication with your doctor. But the way you communicate with your provider can have a big impact on the care you receive.

How well you talk with your doctor is a key part in getting the best care possible. It is important to discuss any concerns you have about your diagnosis and how it will impact your life and the things you do. Always be upfront and honest about your habits – even if you’re not proud of them, like smoking or drinking.

By taking an active role in your care, you can get the best care from the team of doctors, nurses and other health care professionals taking care of you. Each person has a skill set you may need and can answer your questions, provide support to both you and your family, and help you find resources to provide additional help if you need it.

The first step to effectively communicating with your provider is to decide how much you want to know about your diagnosis and its treatment. Some patients want to discuss everything about their diagnosis because it makes them feel more in control of what is happening if they have all the facts. They try to fully understand their diagnosis, treatment and what to expect. Other patients are fine with having just small bits of information. Some people get upset when they are given too many details at once, as they may feel overwhelmed by medical details.

It’s ok to tell your doctor how much or how little you want to know. Be sure to ask questions. There is no such thing as a ‘dumb’ question. Below is a list of basic questions that can help you open the door to effective communication with your doctor.

  • What is my diagnosis? You may want to ask them to write it down for you.
  • What treatment do you recommend?
  • Are there other treatment options?
  • What are the benefits of this treatment?
  • What are the risks?
  • How long will I need treatment?
  • What medicines will I get? What are they for?
  • What side effects, if any, can I expect to have?
  • What can be done about the side effects?
  • Can I work during treatment?