How to Talk to Your Doctor

How to Talk to Your Doctor

Health Literacy

Many people in the United States have a hard time understanding health information. Researchers know that 9 out of 10 Americans do not understand the health information they get from a doctor or other healthcare professional when visiting a clinic or hospital or a public health or social service agency.

If you don’t understand health information that is given to you, it is very hard to manage your health care needs or the healthcare needs of your family or friends. It is difficult to make decisions, find the resources that you need, and to find accurate health information.

If you don’t understand health information, it is also easy to make mistakes, like taking your medications at the wrong time or taking the wrong amount of medications. Another mistake is not recognizing when a health problem gets worse and getting help before it becomes a health emergency. These and other healthcare mistakes put your health and safety at risk.

Action Steps

Get Ready for Your Appointment:  

  1. Write down the questions you want to ask.
  2. Update the list of medicines you take and bring it to your appointment. If you do not have a list, you can make one using this sample: “Keeping Track of your Medicines”.
  3. Bring all your medicines to your appointment.
  4. Ask another adult to come with you to your appointment.
  5. If you are would like an interpreter to help you, ask the office staff to schedule an interpreter at your appointment.

During Your Appointment:

  1. If you do not understand something that you are told, ask that the information be repeated until you do understand.
  2. Repeat back information out loud just as you heard it.
  3. Ask for information in writing.
  4. Ask the questions you brought and any new questions about your treatment or medications.

Use the forms in the section to help you communicate at your next doctor’s visit.


Talking to Your Doctor: This 20-minute video is presented in a series of short segments. Each segment focuses on communication methods that will help you prepare for a visit with your doctor. The presenter discusses the “Talking to Your Doctor” tools available below.

Talking to Your Doctor Tools

  1. Getting Ready for a Doctor’s Visit
  2. Remembering What the Doctor Says
  3. Keeping Track of Your Medicines
  4. Making Good Use of Your Time During a Doctor’s Visit
  5. Questions to Ask During a Medical Appointment
  6. Changes to Discuss With Your Doctor
  7. Concerns to Discuss

Download All Tools

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