A Partnership For Good Health

Why a Good Relationship with a Primary Care Physician is a Must

After years of specialized medical training, your doctor is an expert on the human body. He or she knows how it works, how to help keep it healthy, and how to treat it if something goes wrong.

But even with all that expertise, your doctor will have a hard time treating you without knowing the details of your unique medical situation. That’s why it’s so important for you and your doctor to have a strong working relationship based on open communication.

Your Primary Care Doctor
The main doctor-patient relationship for most people involves a primary care physician. Among other things, these doctors:
• Diagnose medical problems
• Treat a variety of illnesses and conditions
• Coordinate healthcare with other medical professionals, if needed
• Help patients learn how to care for their own needs
• Help prevent health problems from occurring in the first place

Types of Primary Care Doctors
• Family physicians, who are trained to care for people of all ages— from babies to older adults
• Internists, or internal medicine physicians, who focus on the medical conditions faced by adult patients
• Pediatricians, who work with newborns, infants, children, teens and even young adults

Do Your Part
No matter what type of doctor you decide is best for you, you’re likely to be more satisfied with your treatment if you take an active role in your healthcare. For example:

Be prepared–
Before your next doctor’s appointment, take a little time to get ready.

Gather up your medications—
Including any over-the-counter drugs or herbal or alternative remedies that you take—and bring them with you to the doctor’s office. Be ready to tell your doctor if you are allergic to any medications.

Write down questions–
You’ll be less likely to forget something. Put the most important questions first, so you’ll be sure to ask them before the visit ends.

Speak up—
During your visit, tell your doctor about your symptoms and anything else you think he or she needs to know. For instance, be sure to mention when your symptoms started, how often they occur and how long they last.

Be honest—  
Answer all your doctor’s questions, even the ones that might seem a little embarrassing. Remember, with few exceptions, everything you talk about with your doctor is confidential.
Listen carefully, and ask questions. Pay attention when your doctor speaks. It can be a good idea to repeat what he or she says in your own words so you’re sure you understand. If you’re confused, don’t hesitate to ask questions.

If your doctor recommends medication, ask how to take it and about possible side effects. If he or she suggests surgery, be sure you understand why you need it and the risks and benefits. If you have a condition that has a number of treatment options, ask about the pros and cons of each one.

Sources: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality; American Academy of Family Physicians