Tips for Communicating with your Healthcare Providers

Talking to your healthcare providers about your physical or mental health or that of a loved one can feel difficult at times; sometimes it can be very difficult to find the right words to describe how you are feeling. Some topics are hard to talk about because the emotions are so strong. You may not know what to ask or even that there is anything to ask.

We all have different ways of thinking, learning, and expressing ourselves. Sometimes you might feel that you are not understanding everything your healthcare provider is trying to communicate to you. And they, too, might feel they are not understanding everything you are trying to share. You both may be trying equally hard to communicate but feel important information is not getting conveyed.

As a patient or patient advocate, you have an important role in maximizing your healthcare experience. Doing your homework, coming to appointments prepared, and not hesitating to ask questions, are just a few important steps you can take to improve your care experience.

Sometimes it just takes practice and patience to communicate effectively and efficiently.

With these tips below, you can feel more confident communicating with your providers and can improve the quality of care you receive.


8 Tips for effective communication in healthcare

health journal

#1: Keep a health journal on yourself or your loved one

Having a healthcare journal allows you to organize all of your health information in one place. 

Your front page might list references for quick and easy access:  

  • Names and contact information of each member of your healthcare team
  • Phone number of your pharmacy
  • Medication schedule, quantity, and details of any and all medications

Include a questions page with:

  • Ongoing questions or concerns that pop into your mind
  • Questions that arise from reading articles or hearing news
  • Concerns and questions family members or friends may have raised with you

Include a daily or weekly log section:

  • Keep notes on your daily experiences and challenges with your health condition
  • Note emotions and thoughts and how they may or may not change
  • Note changes in your condition and the circumstances that created those changes
  • Consider using a phone app such as Journal My Health, Day One Journal, Dalio Journal-Mood Tracker, DayBook, or your Notepad app (every phone has one preloaded). Some of these apps will let you upload photos.
Ongoing questions

#2  Bring your health journal to your appointments

Don’t forget to bring your journal to each appointment so that you have it to refer to. You might want to review your questions before your appointment and highlight the most important questions and concerns so that you are sure to address those questions first.

Remember to try to make your questions as clear as possible.

Bring someone with you to your appointments

#3  Bring someone with you to your appointments

Even with a journal and prepared questions in hand, it can be very helpful to have support from a trusted family member or friend at your appointments. That person can serve as a second set of ears, take notes for you, and perhaps ask additional questions that might be helpful to you or that you may have forgotten to ask.

#4 Write down your healthcare provider’s instructions and answers to your questions

Take notes (or have your companion do so) on health care instructions, advice, and the answers to your questions. It’s not easy to remember everything that is said at an appointment. Taking notes will save you frustration from trying to remember important medication instructions and other advice that can be very detailed. With notes, you will have information to turn to when you most need it at a later time.

If your healthcare provider allows it, you might consider recording your visit. Recording your conversation with your provider provides an opportunity to hear specific information again or share it with family members or friends.


Talking and Listening Tips for Communicating with your Healthcare Providers

Talking and Listening Tips for Communicating with your Healthcare Providers

#5:  Try to use “I” statements as much as possible.

Healthcare providers often use medical language that is very familiar to them but may be unfamiliar to you. Whenever you are having trouble understanding your healthcare provider, say, “I don’t understand. Could you explain that another way?” “I need more clarification, please.”

#6.  Repeat the information back to your provider for clarity

If something is unclear, try repeating what you think you heard back to your healthcare provider so they can understand your confusion. This technique is called “mirroring” and is sometimes very effective in clarifying what is being said.

You might start with the words, “so you are saying I should…” Or “so I think you are saying that…”

Repeat information back to your provider for clarity

#7. Ask for a visual diagram or visual representation

If you understand better with visual aids, you can ask your provider to write down information on a piece of paper or provide a diagram.

#8. Be assertive

If you still don’t understand something, don’t be afraid to speak up right away. If you continue to feel the question has not been answered in a way you understand, don’t just move on. Speak up again and say, “I really want to understand what you are saying, but I still don’t.” If there isn’t time in this appointment to discuss the matter further, ask for another appointment or request a phone call or email exchange. 

Ask for a visual diagram

At Catawba Valley Healthcare, we are always eager to listen, understand, and explain. We know that communication can be challenging sometimes, but we are always willing to do whatever we can to understand and be understood by our patients and their loved ones.

Give us a call today for your healthcare needs @ (828) 695-5900.