Tips to improve communication with your healthcare team

by Barbara Storch

Being able to communicate comfortably and effectively with your care team is incredibly important! Effective patient-provider communication can be related to improved health outcomes such as patient adherence and is hypothesized to provide pathways to improved health outcomes directly and/or by increasing a patient’s feelings of satisfaction with their care and being understood, for example.

In addition, effective communication between you and your provider can allow for shared decision making, a process where you are an active participant in decisions about your care and freely discuss and share information. This can help make sure that the care you receive is aligned with your goals and your values!

But communicating with your providers can often be hard to do in the moment! You may feel overwhelmed, unprepared, confused, anxious, or any number of other emotions that may make it harder to communicate the way you want to. In this article, you will find some simple tricks to improve communication with your healthcare team!

Tip #1: Write it out before

Before your appointment, come with some questions written out. Try and take some time to think through all questions you may want answered. They could range from questions about your diagnosis itself, questions about treatment options or treatment choices, questions about your current symptoms, or questions about lifestyle and quality of life, among many others!

Remember, when it comes to your care, no questions are too big, too small, or too silly.

You may also want to take a moment to write down your current symptoms. Symptoms can be hard to accurately recall in the moment at a healthcare visit. In addition, it can be common to want to minimize your experience during a healthcare visit. Having a written-out narrative of your current disease symptoms and/or concerns can help you present the most accurate picture so that your healthcare team can offer you the most appropriate suggestions!

Tip #2: Write it out during

Consider taking notes during the appointment – particularly when your healthcare team is answering questions you have or providing new information!

Having these notes can serve as a valuable reference to go back to after your visit. You also can ask your doctor if you can audio-record the session.

Tip #3: Bring a trusted person

Having a trusted person come with you to appointments can help in several ways! It may make you feel more comfortable in the appointment itself, which can help in general with communication.

Having a trusted person means they can also serve as a resource – they can prompt you to bring up things you may have forgotten, and they can also help remember information from the visit itself. You can even ask your trusted person to take notes for you!

Tip #4: Know who to contact between visits

Have you ever had the experience of leaving an appointment, and immediately remembering something you wanted to ask or share? That can be common! To help with that, before you leave a visit, ask what the best way to get in touch with your healthcare team is between visits.

Different offices have different ways of doing this! You also will want to ask how you can access your medical record between visits so you can remind yourself about medications, diagnosis, treatment plans, etc.

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