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Talking with Your Doctor

5 Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Doctor's Visit

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Older woman greeting her doctor in the doctor's officeHave you ever left your doctor’s office realizing you forgot to ask an important question? Or were you frustrated because you didn’t fully understand the doctor’s instructions? These tips may help.

1. Decide What Questions Are Most Important to Ask the Doctor

Before your appointment, pick three or four questions or concerns that you most want to talk about with the doctor. You can tell him or her what they are at the beginning of the appointment, and then discuss each in turn. If you have time, you can then go on to other questions.

2. Stay Focused on Why You Are There

Although your doctor might like to talk with you at length, each patient is given a limited amount of time. To make the best use of your time, stick to the point. For instance, give the doctor a brief description of the symptom, when it started, how often it happens, and if it is getting worse or better.

3. Be Honest with Your Doctor

It is tempting to say what you think the doctor wants to hear, for example, that you smoke less or eat a more balanced diet than you really do. While this is natural, it’s not in your best interest. If you are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, it's important to come out to your doctor, as people who are LGBT have unique health needs. Your doctor can suggest the best treatment only if you say what is really going on. For instance, you might say: “I have been trying to quit smoking, as you recommended, but I am not making much headway.”

4. Share Your Point of View About the Visit with Your Doctor

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Read and share this infographic for tips on how seniors can effectively communicate with their doctors.

Tell the doctor if you feel rushed, worried, or uncomfortable. If necessary, you can offer to return for a second visit to discuss your concerns. Try to voice your feelings in a positive way. For example, you could say something like: “I know you have many patients to see, but I’m really worried about this. I’d feel much better if we could talk about it a little more.”

5. Remember, the Doctor May Not Be Able to Answer All Your Questions

Even the best doctor may be unable to answer some questions. Most doctors will tell you when they don’t have answers. They also may help you find the information you need or refer you to a specialist. If a doctor regularly brushes off your questions or symptoms as simply a part of aging, think about looking for another doctor.

This content is provided by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), part of the National Institutes of Health. NIA scientists and other experts review this content to ensure that it is accurate, authoritative, and up to date.