5 Ways to Partner with Your Doctor

Is there such a thing as a ďgood patient?Ē

Absolutely… a good patient is one who partners with doctors and other medical professionals, taking a proactive role rather than a passive or adversarial role.

The doctor-patient relationship is the cornerstone of patient-centered, compassionate medicine, but only if both doctors and patients take responsibility for their respective roles.

Five Ways to Partner with Your Doctor… and Take Charge of Your Health

1. Be Prepared

  • Bring a list of the names and dosages of all medications you are currently taking, including over-the-counter medicines and nutritional supplements.
  • If youíve been having symptoms for a long period of time, it might also help to bring a list of symptoms and dates.
  • If you have concerns about understanding or remembering details of the visit, bring a family member, friend, or interpreter with you. Take notes.
  • If this is a new doctor, bring copies of medical records, or have previous doctors forward the information prior to your visit.

2. Clearly State the Reason for your Visit
Make good use of your time by communicating all your concerns. If this is more than a general physical, make sure you say so in advance. Donít leave out important details in the hope that your doctor will figure it out.

3. Be Honest
Itís embarrassing to admit our shortcomings, but this is no time to be shy.

  • If youíre a smoker, admit it. Be honest about what you eat and drink, as well as your exercise habits. If you havenít been taking your medication, say so. Major decisions about your health rest upon your complete honesty.
  • Donít forget to mention any complementary medicines or therapies you may use.
  • If you have no intention of following the doctorís instructions, say so up front so alternatives can be decided upon.

4. Ask Questions
Donít be afraid to ask follow-up questions!

  • If youíve been given a prescription, ask about potential side effects or drug interactions… and if there are alternatives to taking the prescribed medication.
  • If additional medical tests are ordered, make sure you understand why, if there are any alternatives, and what the doctor expects to learn. Ask how and when you will receive results of these tests. Donít go along with the ďno news is good newsĒ theory. If you do not receive test results in a timely manner, make the call yourself.
  • If a surgical procedure is suggested, make sure you understand the potential benefits, risks, or alternatives.
  • If you have a chronic illness, ask when you should make your next appointment and learn the warning signs that would require immediate care.

5. Be Active, Not Passive
You neednít wait for your doctor to mention something thatís important to you. Itís your health and you will do better with treatment if you are a partner in your own care. Nobody understands your body, your mind, your life the way you do.

  • If you believe you need a second opinion, donít be afraid to get one.
  • If you think an alternate treatment might be available, ask about it.
  • If you have been diagnosed with a medical condition, do additional research on your own. When searching for health information online, consider the source. Look at the address in your web browser and make sure it is a reputable person or institution. Use the web to create a list of questions to ask your doctor.
  • Understand the difference between physician-provided information and patient-provided information. Other patients can give you a point of view that your doctor probably cannot. This can be extremely valuable, although not a substitute for medical care.

If your doctor does not treat you with respect or discourages your active role, itís time to find a new doctor who believes in patient-centered, compassionate care.

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William C
William C1 years ago


james C.
james C3 years ago

Be nice if I got to see the same doctor, when I go.

Panchali Yapa
Panchali Yapa5 years ago

Thank you

Abbe A.
Azaima A8 years ago

Come in with a list of questions or topics you want to discuss. Don't assume your MD will bring up what's important to you.

jane richmond
jane richmond8 years ago


Eternal Gardener
Eternal G8 years ago

Still looking for an open minded one!

John S.
Past Member 8 years ago

Good advice.

cristiana t.
cristiana t8 years ago

very usefull

Armand F.
Armand G F8 years ago

Having fired my Primary Care Physician because she just ridiculed every opinion or question I had I now have a great working relationship with my new Primary Care Physician. We have developed a two-way conversational approach to my care and it is working well. He encourages my use of herbs and supplements in lieu of medications so as to reduce potential side effects of medications. I have chronic back problems and other medical issues so it was vital that I find a "good" doc. I was very careful when I interviewed doctors for the job of being my Primary Care Physician. There are specific requirements that I had and this doc met them all with flying colors. He returns my phone contacts, he calls me with results of all lab work whether it is positive or negative, he talks to me as if I have a working knowledge of my body and treats me with great respect. The additional benefit is that we are both retired military so we speak the same language. It is vital that we all take an active role in our physical wellbeing and treat the doctor with the same respect we expect to be treated with. It is a working relationship and should be treated as such. Both partners need to take an active and complimentary role in seeing that the relationship works. If it is not, nothing says you can't fire the doctor and hire a new one. Just be very conscientious when you interview doctors for the position you want them to take in your care. Remember they are working for you and should act accordingly.

Lika S.
Lika P8 years ago

p.s. Even though I can't work full time if I wanted to, I can't get disability because each doctor refuses to put anything in my chart about my back problem. Because x-rays are negative, they don't diagnose me with anything.

Yet every time I go into the hospital, for the reduction surgery, giving birth, etc, when they've pumped me with IV fluids and gave me antibiotic for the procedure, not only did I flush out a lot, I became pain free for 3-6 weeks. I tell the doctors this and they still can't come up with anything...

I'm wishing I could do something, because this pain is getting too much to bear. I try not to complain, but it's not easy. If someone has a suggestion, I'd be happy to hear it. I've been tested for cushing's disease also.

My son is almost 11. I'd like to be able to do more with him. I don't like doing so little, because I can't get verb.