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Work Closely With Your Doctor - Learn All You Can From Your Doctor

Use your doctor as a teacher and coach

Some patients just want their doctors to tell them what to do. They don't want to know the whys and the hows. Some of the time, that's fine. But if you really want to get care that best meets your needs, be a patient and a student.

Don't just ask your doctor what you should do. Ask why. Your doctor can help you understand your care.

Don't worry about being thought of as a "difficult" patient. Asking questions is not being difficult—it's being an active participant in your own health care.

Always ask to see if you have options. Which options seem best for you? What are their pros and cons? What effects might your choice have in the short term and over the long term?

Benefit from your doctor's experience with other patients. Even though every patient's situation is different, your doctor has probably helped other patients work through the same questions and decisions that you have to deal with. Some doctors may be better teachers and coaches than others, but they really do want to help you get the answers you need.

Tell your doctor that you care about cost

A doctor's main focus is to help you get better, not to save you money. But if you speak up, your doctor may be able to help with both.

Don't expect your doctor to know the exact cost of a drug or test or treatment. There are so many things that determine the cost of care—your health plan's arrangement with your doctor, how your plan bills for care, where you get the care, and others. But your doctor can give you an idea of how the cost of one choice compares to another.

Prepare for every doctor visit

This helps your doctor give you better care and helps both of you make the most of the visit.

  • Be ready to say what your main symptoms are, when they started, and what you have done to treat them so far. It may help to write these things down before your doctor visit.
  • Write down the three questions that you most want to have answered. If the doctor doesn't bring them up, don't be afraid to ask.
  • Bring a list of all the medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements that you are taking.
  • Bring copies of recent test results if the tests were done by a different doctor.

Take an active role in every visit or call

  • Pay attention. Ask questions if you don't understand something.
  • Write down the diagnosis, the treatment plan, and guidelines for self-care and follow-up visits or calls.
  • Have a family member or friend with you during your appointment, if possible. He or she can take notes, ask questions to clarify information, and help you remember what your doctor says.
  • Be honest and direct about what you do or do not plan to do.

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