Heart-to-heart: Talking to Your Health Care Professional

Are you embarrassed to ask your health care professional certain questions, nervous that you’ll sound confused, or flustered by the fact that your health care professional seems rushed or uses lots of technical language?

Regardless of the problem, it’s important for you to find a solution because medical miscommunication can hurt your health. If communicating with your health care professional is difficult, we’ve got some tips to help you get the answers you need. Hint: The silent treatment is never effective.

Ready, set, ask!

The best way to make sure you’re following your health care professional’s advice and taking your medication correctly is to use simple, direct communication. Ask a lot of questions. If you don’t understand an answer, keep asking until you do understand. Medical terms can be tough to figure out, and sometimes more explanation is needed.

Health care professionals have to set a tone in which questions and discussions are welcome — then patients have to have the courage to speak up.

It helps to ask the right questions. A little research before your visit will help you have a more informed discussion with your health care professional. Use the internet but stick with reliable sources your health care professional will respect.

Use reliable sources

For heart and stroke information, visit the American Heart Association’s website. For questions on other medical topics, check with accredited medical schools, university teaching hospitals and government sites such as the National Library of Medicine(link opens in new window), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(link opens in new window) and the Department of Health and Human Services(link opens in new window) are also reliable.

Don't take a pile of printouts to your appointment. Organize your questions into a concise list before you get there. In turn, your health care professional should make time to answer all your questions thoroughly.

And if you have an urgent question after your visit, don’t hesitate to contact your health care professional.