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How can I improve communication with my doctor?

Zashin: If you have questions in between appointments, don’t hesitate to call the office and ask. Your doctor or another staff member should get back to you in a timely manner. But be sure to leave a number where you can be reached and what time is best to reach you. This will limit the time that you spend playing “phone tag” and help ensure you get a prompt response.

It’s also helpful to try to be as honest with your doctor as possible. If you have a problem or question about your treatment, bring it up with your doctor. And if you feel that he’s not taking your questions or concerns seriously, don’t be afraid to get a second opinion or to look for another doctor.

Hassett: Try to be as brief and clear as possible. For example, when describing a symptom, focus on the facts. Tell your doctor when you first noticed the symptom, what it feels like, what time of day it’s the worst, and what, if anything, makes it feel better. You can even write these things down ahead of time so you remember. Try to avoid telling long stories that don’t focus on your symptoms.

It’s also helpful to keep an open, positive attitude about your treatment. Try not to shrug off your doctor’s advice or suggestions without considering them, even if it sounds like something you’ve tried before. Sometimes just a small shift in a treatment, such as a different dose of medication or a new way of exercising, can make a big difference in your results.

Corleone: It’s good idea to keep a diary or journal so you can keep track of your day-to-day symptoms. That way, you can answer any questions your doctor may have, such as how long the symptom has been happening or what makes it feel better or worse.

I also try to listen carefully to what my doctor tells me, and if I don’t understand something, I ask her to explain. Sometimes, I’ll ask her to write down medical terms so I can do my own research when I get home.

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