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Working with Your Healthcare Provider

Having a regular healthcare provider is important to help you stay healthy. Telling your healthcare provider (HCP) about yourself will help improve your care and keep you safe. And ask questions when you don’t understand something, or just want to know more. Don’t be afraid to speak up! Good communication with your HCP helps you get the most out of your healthcare.

Woman looking at patient education brochure with health care provider.

Talk about your lifestyle

All sorts of things can affect your health. So your HCP needs to know about your daily life.

Tell your HCP

Make sure to include the following: 

  • Where you work and what you do

  • Whether you live alone or with others

  • About your eating and sleeping habits

  • Whether you get regular exercise

  • If you drink alcohol or smoke

  • If you are under a lot of stress

  • If you are dealing with a major life change such as marriage, divorce, or retirement

  • Your health and wellness goals

Share your symptoms   

Symptoms are a change from what’s normal. They suggest illness or injury. If you notice a change in the way your body looks, works, or feels, tell your HCP.

Tell your HCP

Make sure to include the following: 

  • The type of symptom, such as pain, fever, nausea, or weakness

  • When your symptoms started

  • How often you have symptoms

  • Whether your symptoms wake you up at night

  • Whether you have symptoms at a certain time of day or while you are doing specific things

  • How bad your symptoms are

  • Whether your symptoms interfere with your daily activities and, if so, how

  • Whether other family members or people you spend time with have similar symptoms

  • Whether your symptoms are getting better or worse

  • Whether you have had these symptoms before

  • Whether you have other symptoms

  • Whether something unusual that you have done recently may be the cause, such as traveling outside the country

Discuss your diagnosis

A diagnosis identifies the cause of an illness or the reason for symptoms. Be sure you understand your diagnosis. This will make it easier for you and your HCP to reach decisions about your treatment and care.

Ask your HCP

Suggestions of questions you can ask include:

  • The name of the condition

  • The cause of the condition

  • How long the condition will last

  • Whether there will be any long-term effects

  • What you can do to prevent the condition in the future

  • How you can learn more about the condition

  • If the condition is contagious

Ask about medical tests

Medical tests include things such as blood tests and X-rays. If you have a medical problem, tests can give your healthcare provider more information. Tests can also uncover hidden health problems.

Ask your HCP

Suggestions of questions you can ask include: 

  • Why you need the test

  • Should you stop taking any of your medicines before the test and when should you start taking them after

  • What the test results will show

  • If there are any risks

  • How accurate the test results will be

  • How much the test will cost and if there is a less expensive choice

  • How the test is done and how long it will take

  • What you need to do to get ready for the test

  • How you will feel after the test

  • If you will be able to drive yourself home

Think over your treatment choices

Many health conditions can be treated. Your HCP may recommend a certain treatment. But it’s a decision you need to make together.

Ask your HCP

Suggestions of questions you can ask include:

  • About all your treatment choices, including diet, exercise, medicine, and surgery

  • How much treatment will cost and what alternatives there are

  • How soon you should start treatment

  • How long treatment will last

  • Whether there are risks

  • What will happen if the condition is not treated

Ask about prevention

The goal of prevention is to keep from developing diseases or conditions. It’s easier to prevent illness than it is to cure it. Talk to your HCP about what you can do to keep yourself healthy.

Ask your HCP

Suggestions of questions you can ask include:

  • How often you should come in for checkups

  • Whether you should get shots to prevent disease

  • How often you should get screening tests, including mammograms and colonoscopies

  • When and how will you receive test results 

  • Whether you should make any lifestyle changes

Consider a patient portal

Many HCP clinics and healthcare systems use patient portals. A patient portal can make it easier to reach and talk with your HCP and help you manage your health.

A patient portal is a web-based tool that allows you to get to your health information 24 hours a day. A patient portal can provide different features, based on the system that your HCP offers. Typically, you can log on to your patient portal using a secure website with a user name and password. A patient portal allows you to see certain parts of your medical record. It's also a way for you to send private, secure messages to your HCP. Talk with your HCP about the benefits of a patient portal. More recent patient portal systems even allow your HCPs to share information such as lab tests and X-ray reports so you don't end up having tests repeated unnecessarily.

Don't be afraid to ask your HCP to help you with choices about end-of-life care, such as a living will or designating a relative or friend to make decisions for you if you are in an emergency situation.

Online Medical Reviewer: L Renee Watson MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Paula Goode RN BSN MSN
Online Medical Reviewer: Robert Hurd MD
Date Last Reviewed: 4/1/2022
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