Talking with Your Doctor

Frequently Asked Questions

4. What can I do to make the best use of my time with my doctor?

Here are some tips to help you make the best use of your time with the doctor.

  • Decide what questions are most important.
  • Be honest.
  • Stick to the point.
  • Share your point of view about the visit.
  • Be aware that the doctor may not be able to answer all of your questions.

Decide what questions are more important. Rank your list of concerns and questions by importance and talk about the most important items first. If you put off talking about the items that are bothering you most, you may run out of time to talk about them during the visit. Afterwards, if you have time, you can talk about the other things on your list.

Be honest. It is tempting to say what you think the doctor wants to hear, like you have stopped smoking or are eating a more balanced diet. This is natural, but it’s not in your best interest. Your doctor needs all the facts to suggest the best treatment for you. For instance, you might say: “I have been trying to eat fewer sweets, as you recommended, but I am not making much headway.”

Stick to the point. Your doctor may not have a lot of time to talk with you. Therefore, it is important for you to stay focused on what you planned to talk about. To make the best use of your time, give a brief summary of what is bothering you most, when the symptom started, how often it happens, and if it is getting worse or better.

Share your point of view about the visit. Tell the doctor if you feel rushed, worried, or uncomfortable. If necessary, you can offer to return for a second visit to discuss your concerns more fully. Try to voice your feelings in a positive way. For example, you could say something like: “I know you have many patients to see, but I’m really worried about this. I’d feel much better if we could talk about it a little more.”

Remember, the doctor may not be able to answer all your questions. Even the best doctor may not have answers to some of your questions. Your doctor may be able to help you find the information or refer you to a specialist. If a doctor regularly brushes off your questions or symptoms as simply a part of aging, think about looking for another doctor.

For a printable checklist, see Making Good Use of Your Time During a Doctor’s Visit [PDF] or [HTML version]

(Watch the video to learn more about what to share 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.)