Talking with Your Doctor

Frequently Asked Questions

13. What are ways I can remember what my doctor says during a visit?

No matter what your age, it is easy to forget a lot of what your doctor says. Also, sometimes what your doctor says may be hard to understand. As your doctor gives you information about your health, it is a good idea to make sure that you understand it and that you will be able to remember it. Here are some tips to help you remember information.

(Watch the video to learn more about remembering the conversations with your doctor. To enlarge the video, click the brackets in the lower right-hand corner. To reduce the video, press the Escape (Esc) button on your keyboard.)

  • Take notes. Taking notes during your doctor visit can help you remember what you and your doctor talk about. Take along a notepad and pen or pencil, and write down your doctor's main points or ask your doctor to write them down for you. If you cannot write while the doctor is talking to you, make notes in the waiting room after your visit. Some doctors may allow you to audiotape record your visit if you do not want to, or cannot, take notes.
  • Ask for clarification. Always ask your doctor about anything he or she says that seems unclear. You might say, "I want to make sure I understand. Could you explain a little more?" or "I didn't understand that word. What does it mean?" You may also find it helpful to repeat back to your doctor what he or she says using your own words and ask if you are correct.
  • Request written or visual aids. Ask if your doctor has any written information or DVDs, CDs, cassettes, or videotapes about your health condition and/or treatment. Also, ask your doctor about other places where you can get more information to help you understand, such as websites or health organizations.
  • Speak with other members of the health care team. Sometimes your doctor may want you to talk to another member of the health care team about your condition. These people may be better able to explain the health problem and help you make decisions about what to do about it. These people, such as nurses and physician assistants, may also be able to spend more time with you than your doctor.