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Get the Most From Your Doctor Visits

Tips on being an informed patient

TUESDAY, July 13, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- If you want to become a better-informed patient and get the most out of your doctor's visits, here are some tips that were presented at a recent forum sponsored by Harvard Medical School:

  • Bring along a family member or close friend when you see your doctor. Having another person there to listen carefully may help both you and your doctor when making decisions about your care.
  • If you don't feel comfortable talking to a doctor, speak with a nurse.
  • Be aware there may be other options, even if your doctor offers only one treatment choice. Ask your doctor to outline all available treatments for your condition.
  • Set the terms of the patient-doctor relationship. If you find your doctor is too deferential or too bossy, tell your doctor. If the situation doesn't change, consider switching doctors.
  • Consider your priorities. Medical decisions often require trade-offs. Talk with your doctor about your preferences and values.
  • Use the Internet to learn more. You do have to be careful, but you can find a lot of credible health information on the Web.
  • Get copies of your medical records. It's your right and can help you become a fully informed patient.
  • Bring a tape recorder when you visit your doctor. Listening to the recording after your appointment may help you understand things you didn't comprehend during your visit.
  • Find a doctor you like, and don't feel you have to stay with a doctor you don't like or don't trust.

More information

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has advice on how patients can help prevent medical errors.

SOURCE: Harvard Health Letter, news release, June 30, 2004
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