Do you know how to talk to your doctor?

It could help you take charge of your health and save money

Health care can be complicated and even confusing. The best way for you to avoid being overwhelmed by uncertainty is to become health care literate. This doesn’t just mean learning big words, it also means knowing how to talk to your doctors so you have a better understanding of how to follow recommendations, take medications correctly and take charge of your health.

If you don’t understand the information given to you by your doctors, you are more likely to be in poor health, which is why it is important for everyone to know how to talk to their doctor.

Talking openly with your doctor and getting the most from your appointments may also help you reduce your out-of-pocket costs. By being engaged and more proactive with your health, you can avoid issues that are more complex and the need for additional care.

Here are some tips you can use when talking to your doctors:

Being prepared can make a big difference in the success of your appointment with your doctor. You should have a general list of questions that you would like the answers to, such as:

  • What should I do to prevent or delay health problems?
  • Are there tests or screenings I should have?
  • Am I due for vaccines?

You should also be prepared to ask questions directly related to the reason for your visit. In addition, having a list of all prescription and over-the counter medications, other drugs, vitamins and any herbal remedies you are currently taking can help the doctor get a full picture of your health. You should also make note of any nutritional drinks or shakes, herbal teas, energy drinks, coffee and alcohol you drink.

Being prepared for an appointment will show your doctor that you are engaged and ready to do your part to maintain good health.

During an appointment, you should ask questions and then listen diligently while the doctor responds. You should feel empowered to ask for clarification if you don’t understand something, repeat the information back to the doctor and even have a piece of paper with you to take notes.

Before leaving the appointment, you should know what your main issue is, what you need to do to treat it, and why the recommended treatment is important. If you aren’t clear on these three points, you need ask for clarification, or schedule a follow-up appointment.

You should also pay close attention to any referrals that the doctor orders. The rule of thumb for referrals is to ask, “Why are we doing this?” You need to understand the need for the referral, the expected outcome, and whether or not the doctor or facility you are being referred to is in-network. If the service provider is not in-network, you should ask if an alternative is available. The same is true when being referred for lab tests, imaging or other outpatient services. You should understand the need, expected outcome and whether or not these services are being requested diagnostically or if it will help your condition.

When lab, imaging or outpatient services are requested, you should also pay close attention to where you are being referred, and you shouldn’t be afraid to ask if there are alternatives. Remember, freestanding facilities may have less out-of-pocket costs than services received at the hospital, so you should talk to your doctor about your concerns and finding the service provider that is best for you.

When you are diagnosed with a health problem, you need to understand, in common language, what the issue is. Again, being prepared, asking questions and really listening while your doctor responds can go a long way in understanding your condition. Some of the common questions you should ask about your condition include:

  • What is the name of the condition?
  • How is it spelled?
  • What does it mean?
  • What may have caused it?
  • How long will it last?

You should also inquire about treatment options for your condition and how you can learn more.

Remember, it’s your responsibility to take control of your health and control your health care spending. Talk to your employer, benefit administrator or insurance provider to learn more about all of the member tools and extras available to help you become a healthy, smart, health care consumer.



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