The Library Springfield-Greene County Library District Springfield, Missouri
Health & Wellness

How To Talk To Your Doctor


A huge part of your personal health and wellness is dependent on proper communication with your doctor.  However, sometimes it may seem as though your doctor is speaking a different language.   There are many resources available to help assist patients in this process.

The National Patient Safety Foundation (NPSF) has recently started the “Ask Me 3” patient education program.  The NPSF encourages patients to ask these three simple questions in every health care interaction:
1. What is my main problem?
2. What do I need to do?
3. Why is it important for me to do this?
Getting your doctor, nurse or pharmacist to properly explain to you the answers to these three questions is very helpful to good health outcomes. 

The Agency for Health Care Research and Quality’s (AHRQ) “Questions are the Answer” website also has lots of interesting information on how to talk to your medical providers.  The website also contains a customizable question builder that you can tailor to your specific medical situation.  It is often recommended that you set up a specific list of questions to ask your doctor before you arrive at your appointment.  This can help prevent “white coat amnesia” when you are actually with your physician.

Even if you know the right questions to ask, understanding the answers is not always easy.  The National Library of Medicine offers an excellent online tutorial on understanding medical words.  They also provide a list of word parts and what they mean, as well as a list of commonly used medical abbreviations.

Most health literacy groups suggest using a teach-back method with your medical provider.  The teach-back method asks the patient to repeat what their medical provider has explained, in the patient’s own language.   You should always try to communicate in your own words:  what your main problem is, what you need to do, and why is it important for you to do this.  When you and your doctor agree on your explanation, you will know that you are both communicating well.  The library also has several books available on how to communicate with health professionals.

How to talk with your doctor : the guide for patients and their physicians who want to reconcile and use the best of conventional and alternative medicine / Ronald L. Hoffman, with Sidney Stevens.



How patients should think : 10 questions to ask your doctor about drugs, tests, and treatment / Ray Moynihan & Melissa Sweet.




You, the smart patient : an insider's handbook for getting the best treatment / Michael F. Roizen and Mehmet C. Oz




The Cleveland Clinic guide to speaking with your cardiologist / Curtis Rimmerman.

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