How To Communicate With Your Healthcare Team

Talking Is Important

How well you and your healthcare provider talk to each other is important.  It is part of your healthcare. Ask questions if the explanations or instructions are unclear. Mention any problems you are having, even if your healthcare provider doesn’t ask.  Let your healthcare provider know if you have concerns about a treatment or change in your daily life. Taking an active role in your healthcare will help you feel more in control.

Get Ready for Your Appointment

Before you arrive at your appointment, have a basic plan that you’ve thought about beforehand. Here are some tips to help:

  • Write down your questions. Put your questions in order so you’re sure to ask about the most important ones first.
  • Take along a list of all the medications you are taking. Include any over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, or supplements. You should also take your insurance cards, names, and phone numbers of other healthcare providers you see. Bring your medical records if your healthcare provider doesn’t already have them.
  • Ask a family member or friend to come with you. They can remind you what you planned to discuss in case you forget, and can help you remember what the healthcare provider said.
  • Ask for an interpreter if you need one. Call your healthcare provider’s office ahead of time.  Healthcare providers are required to provide interpreter services.  Or you can ask a friend or family member who speaks English to come with you.

Share Information

  • Update your doctor. Tell your healthcare provider what has happened since your last visit. Let your healthcare provider know about any new symptoms or changes in your appetite, weight, sleep, or in the medications you take.
  • Describe any symptoms. A symptom is something you feel like pain or dizziness. Information about your symptoms along with findings from a physical exam and medical tests will help your healthcare provider make a diagnosis.
  • Stick to the point. Each patient is given a limited amount of time during an appointment. To make the best use of your time, keep to the subject. For instance, give your healthcare provider a brief description of the symptom, when it started, how often it happens, and if it is getting worse or better.
  • Take notes. Or get a friend or family member to take notes for you.
  • Ask your healthcare provider to write down instructions for you. Ask for printed materials about your condition or suggestions for where you can get more information.

Ask Questions

You and your healthcare provider will need to work together to make treatment choices that are best for you. Here are some questions to help you begin a discussion.

Ask questions about prevention

  • How can I help to prevent a condition that runs in my family before it affects me?
  • How can I keep my condition from getting worse?
  • What changes or symptoms do I need to watch for and tell you about?
  • Should I have a simple urine test (called “ACR”) and blood test (called “GFR”) to find out if I have kidney disease?  Should any of my family members have this test?
  • I’ve heard that people with kidney disease have a high risk of heart disease.  What can I do to help slow or even prevent heart disease?

Ask questions about different treatments

  • Are there any risks associated with my treatment?
  • How soon should treatment start?
  • How long will treatment last?
  • What other treatments are available?
  • How much will the treatment cost?
  • How much will my insurance cover?

Ask questions about medicine

  • How often should I take my medicine? At what times of day?
  • Should I take it before, with, or after meals?
  • Should I avoid any foods, medicines or alcoholic beverages when I take it?
  • Are there times when I should change the dose of medicine I take?
  • What should I do if I forget to take it?
  • What side effects can this medicine cause? What should I do if I have side effects?
  • If I’m sick and I can’t keep food down, should I still take this medicine?