Talking To Your Health Care Team

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You have heard the saying that “it takes a village.” These days, your health care team often goes beyond your doctor to include nurses, physician assistants, pharmacists, social workers, therapists, dieticians and other providers, all of whom are part of your healthcare “village.” They all work together to try to solve your medical challenges and keep you as healthy as possible.


Clear communication with your team can help you develop a close partnership that allows you to become an active participant in your care and helps them improve the quality of care you receive. Here are some things to keep in mind:


Prepare For Your Visits of Phone Calls Beforehand

Make a list of brief and specific questions to help you understand your treatment options and follow up.  If you have chosen to research your condition online, you may want to print out useful pages to talk over with your team.


Learn the Roles of the Different Members of Your Team

Different members of your care team focus on different parts of your care. Right from the start, write down the names and functions of your team members so you can go to the appropriate person for your questions and concerns. It is a good idea to gather their business cards and keep them organized in a binder for quick reference.


Ask For Clarification If You Don’t Understand Something

Medical professionals sometimes use abbreviations or phrases that you may not understand, especially when speaking to each other. Don’t be embarrassed to ask your health care providers to define new words or explain their instructions in a simpler manner. The more you know, the more you can confidently participate in decisions that affect your health.


Keep a Record of Your Visit

Bring along your binder so you can write down and remember your doctor’s responses and instructions. If your doctor allows it, you may want to audio record your visit so you can share it later with family and friends. Certainly feel free to ask your doctor for written material to take home.  It’s always good to bring along someone you trust, not only for support, but also to later reinforce what you think your health care team suggested.