It is not uncommon to feel lost in the smoke and
maze of having a conversation with your doctor. It may feel like you have just
landed in a foreign country without a clue to the language and culture. You may
become overwhelmed and confused. Effective communication, however, has become a
standard of good health care practice. You need to understand your doctor and
your doctor you, for proper results and effective health to be achieved.
Communication does not need to be a confused jumble of medical jargon anymore. As a health care consumer you have access to much more information today than ever before; you should use this increased knowledge to help navigate the communication jungle. Today's health care providers should be savvier to your needs; they should fully appreciate the need for consumers to be well informed and educated before they make major decisions.
Virtually, every profession has its own jargon and shorthand related to the work. Medicine isn't any different, except for the fact that quality health care, and even your life, could be hanging in the balance. It is of vital importance that you understand what your doctor is saying to you. Otherwise, you could make decisions that are not for your benefit, or are not easily acceptable by your family or current living conditions.
When you talk to your doctor, be prepared with questions and be comfortable with your knowledge level on the issues to be discussed. If you are talking to your doctor about surgery, short-term treatments or long-term medical care, you should do your homework. One of the advantages of living in the information age is that you, the consumer, can become familiarized with your medical condition on a personal level. Searching the internet can be useful, but also dangerous. Make sure the site you are researching on has good sources, or is in itself, a trustworthy source of information.
Cut to the chase from the very beginning and don't let "med speak" nip you in the but. There is nothing wrong with asking, insisting even, that your medical provider slow down and explain things to you in plain English. Always clarify and don't let yourself be intimidated by the doctor, or the Jargon. If a health care provider makes you feel uncomfortable or wrong for just asking questions, or even making you feel stupid, then maybe he or she is not the right one for you. Health care today must be a mutually respectful relationship between both parties involved.
There may be cultural differences that can affect your discussion. This is normal and should be expected. All human beings are products of their culture, and that includes race, religion and even geography. Remember, it is not only your culture that may impact the conversation, but your provider's as well. Sometimes different cultures has expectations of certain behaviors, or assume that people know certain things. Although it can be hard to know when your doctor assumes you understand or know something, or assumes you will do something, try to always clarify even the things you think might sound stupid.
Take in the information slowly. Often times, there is a lot of information to decipher about a new medical condition and it's virtually impossible to learn everything you need to know from one meeting. Take it one piece of information at a time. A good question to keep asking your provider is, "What do I need to know TODAY?" By asking this you will get the basic information you need, and ten you can do some research and come back with more questions, being better informed.
Reflect back to your health care provider exactly what you believe has been said. Explain what you think you heard. This allows for clarification of any confusing information. Your doctor will see what you have learned and can then either re-iterate, or re-explain what they see you didn't understand.
Making sure you have a good relationship with your doctor and making sure you can understand them is very important in keeping good health.