The relationship with a doctor is a very personal one, built on communication and trust. In choosing a doctor, the "chemistry" between the two of you must work. You must be able to trust, confide in and tell your doctor about your health problems, including all symptoms. Your doctor, in turn, should listen to you, give you options and feedback and have your best interest in mind.
Here are some things you can do to help build an effective partnership:
Doctors are busy, so you need to know how to get the most from their limited time with you. This means that you must be organized and focused on the issues you want to address.
Think in advance about the questions you want answered. Write down and prioritize those questions, highlighting the main three or four you want to discuss. Send a list of the questions to your doctor in advance, if you think that would be helpful.
Provide your doctor with good, accurate information about your symptoms and medications so he or she has the necessary tools to accurately diagnose your condition and prescribe appropriate treatment. A list of medications and supplements you are taking, recent symptoms and the dates at which they occurred, any recent tests and names of other doctors you are seeing can be useful information to share with your doctor.
The better you are able to communicate your needs and concerns, the better your doctor can respond.
Let your doctor know how much or how little you want to participate in the decision-making process and whether you want very detailed information about all treatment options or just general information. Inform your doctor of any cultural beliefs that may affect your treatment choices or preferences.
There is virtually nothing more important than your health. Just as you would not buy a car without asking questions, don't be afraid to ask your doctor questions. If your concerns are not addressed to your satisfaction, be assertive. Let your doctor know that you still have questions and ask if an additional appointment can be set up, whether the appointment can be extended or if there are other staff members who can address your questions.
Balance assertiveness with respect and understanding. Although it's important to let your doctor know your needs or if you are dissatisfied, it's equally important to voice appreciation for positive aspects of your communication and treatment. Keep in mind that many of your questions can be addressed by a nurse, a social worker or by the staff at the Cancer Resource Center.
Before you leave, find out the best way to keep in touch between office visits, whether through the nurse, via email or by leaving messages at the front desk.
For additional information or resources, please visit:
Cancer Resource Center
1600 Divisadero St., First Floor
San Francisco, CA 94115
Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.
This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or health care provider. We encourage you to discuss with your doctor any questions or concerns you may have.