1. Develop continuity with your physician.

The most important thing you can do to ensure optimal health care is form a long-term relationship with one general practitioner, rather than constantly switching physicians.


2. Respect.

Be respectful and courteous to your physician, and expect the same from him or her; you will be more satisfied with your appointments.


3. Ask questions.

Most doctors find it helpful when you ask questions or speak up if you disagree with them. Only 4% of doctors find it completely unhelpful when you ask questions. However, if you are constantly challenging his or her advice, your interactions could become tense.


4. Take your medicine!

Follow instructions when taking medication. If you do not take your pills as your doctor prescribes, you might diminish your chances of improving your condition, and your physician will never know whether the medication is effective.


5. Take notes as symptoms appear.

Do not recall symptoms to your physician from memory, which might be particularly unreliable if you’re tired or feeling unwell, or if you feel pressured by time.


6. The internet can be a useful tool, but don’t rely on it for a diagnosis.

Do not start a specific treatment on the recommendation of a website! Many symptoms are characteristic of multiple illnesses, and starting the wrong treatment may actually cause further harm, so always consult a physician.


7. Give your doctor(s) feedback.

Physicians are typically very busy from the volume of patients they see and the amount of paperwork they have to go through. If you think that your doctor is cutting corners, or you have any other questions or concerns, then speak up! There is always a polite, respectful way to do so.


8. Plan ahead.

To get the most out of your visit, prioritize and write down a list of concerns and topics you would like to go over with your doctor. If there is not enough time to discuss everything, then ask if you can follow up by email. Luckily, you prioritized and left the least important stuff till the end!

First published in the Inside Tract® newsletter issue 181 – 2012
Adapted from Consumer Reports Health survey, What doctors wish their patients knew.February 2011, of 660 US physicians.