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During the Appointment

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Before the Appointment

During the Appointment

After the Appointment

Kids, Teens, and Senior Adults


Help Your Doctor Help You

Just as you will have some questions for your doctor, your doctor will also want to know some things about you. To help your doctor, here are some things to be ready to tell him or her (for more information, see "Before the Appointment"):

  • Medical History/Health Journal
  • Allergies/Sensitivities
  • Medication List

When it comes to communicating with your doctor, don't forget all the rules of effective communication. Express yourself as clearly as possible, listen actively (nodding to indicate you understand),and be assertive if you feel that the doctor is not paying attention to you. Eye contact has been the focus of recent research, indicating that eye contact between the doctor and patient helps to communicate emotion and how a person is actually feeling (9).

Understand Your Doctor

Sometimes it can be difficult to understand the doctor and other sources of medical information. If you find yourself having trouble understanding, try out these tips:

Most medical words can be broken down into smaller parts. Using these word parts can help you understand many medical terms, even if they appear confusing at first.For example:


"Gastro" - relating to the stomach

"Entero" - relating to the stomach

"ology" - the study of

Therefore, if you are sent to an expert in gastroenterology, you know that they will be checking out your stomach and/or intestines. Here are some lists that might prove helpful in breaking down medical terms:

MedlinePlus: Word parts and what they mean

Wikipedia: Medical roots, suffixes, and prefixes

If you are looking for more information, or just want some practice, here is a tutorial for understanding medical words:

National Library of Medicine: Understanding medical words

Medical professionals often use abbreviations to read and speak more quickly. That may be helpful for them, but can also be confusing. Here are some common abbreviations that can help you figure out what exactly is being said.

National Library of Medicine: Some Common Abbreviations

Communication between doctors and patients involves more than vocabulary. When first meeting a new doctor, remember that he or she may have different health beliefs than you. This may be due to differences in education, cultural background, or even religious beliefs. Doctors are usually trained to recognize these differences, but every new case presents its own difficulties (2). With this in mind, be sure to explain what you think, listen to the doctor with an open mind, and try to maintain a positive attitude so that you will be flexible to new ideas.

Don't Leave Without

It's hard enough to find a time to go in to see the doctor; you probably don't want to do this more than you have to. In order to prevent unnecessary visits to the doctor, remember to do these before you leave:

-All questions answered

If you don't quite understand something, make sure you ask the doctor. It is their job to help you, and it is best to clarify questions immediately.

-Understand next steps

You might need to do something in response to your doctor's visit. Make sure you know exactly what you need to do before you leave.

-Written notes

Write down the things you want to remember. If you have a friend with you, ask them to take notes as well. Also, you can ask your doctor to write down information, especially things you are not sure how to spell.

-Printed notes

The medical field is relying increasingly on computer technology. If you have a new diagnosis, ask for a printout with relevant information. This is also true for medical equipment, prescriptions, and treatments.


And remember, you have the right to ask questions. If you don't understand something that the doctor says, ask him or her to explain it in a different way!



2.Dorgan KA, Lang F, Floyd M, Kemp E (2009). International medical graduate-patient communication: a qualitative analysis of perceived barriers. Academic Medicine: Journal of the Association of American Medical Colleges, 84(11):1567-75.

9.MacDonald K (2009). Patient-clinician eye contact: social neuroscience and art of clinical engagement. Postgraduate Medicine, 121(4):136-44.

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Accessibility | Privacy | ASU Disclaimer This site was created by Nik Wright in fulfillment of requirements for the course TCL 323 : Latino Health Issues taught by Dr. Szkupinski Quiroga at Arizona State University, Fall 2009.