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20 Jan

A good doctor-patient partnership is based on trust and truthful communication, like all healthy relationships! Here is a useful guide to help you to get the most from that partnership.  It will also ensure your doctor understands your symptoms and can make an accurate diagnosis and advise on the best treatment pathway.

  • Be prepared

Do your ‘homework’ thoroughly before visiting the doctor to make the best use of your time. With studies suggesting that the average consultation with a doctor is 8 minutes in the UK1, being prepared not only makes efficient use of your doctor’s time but you’re more likely to get an accurate diagnosis and subsequent medical care too.

So, make sure you;

  • bring all your medical records with you
  • keep a diary of your symptoms & make sure to take this to your consultation
  • have a list of written questions
  • take a pen & paper to write down notes (studies have shown patients can forget about 50% of what a doctor tells them during a visit)
  • Be truthful

Tell your doctor all your symptoms, starting from the time when you first noticed that something wasn’t quite right. If you have written a diary on your condition and how it is affecting you - all the better. Be sure to inform the doctor of remedies you have already tried and whether you have seen another healthcare professional about the problem or issue.

There is no need to be shy or embarrassed about any problems, they have ‘seen it all’ and ‘heard it all’ before and will not make a moral judgement on you.

Make sure to always tell your doctor what medications you are taking.

  • Ask about your diagnosis

Do not feel embarrassed or shirk from asking your doctor what he thinks is wrong with you. Surprisingly, many doctors are reluctant to give a name to a patient’s problems, so if you do not ask that specific question, you may not get an answer.

Make sure you ask your doctor to explain your diagnosis and how it may affect you and your family;

  • What’s my diagnosis?
  • What is my prognosis?
  • What changes, if any, will I need to make in my daily life?
  • Will I need special help at home for my condition? If so, what type of help?


  • It’s all in the detail

Doctors aren’t mind-readers, so you must tell them everything you know, think, and feel about your problem if you want an accurate diagnosis and the best treatment plan for your condition. You are entitled to raise relevant questions and to seek satisfactory answers to them in clear, plain English. It may help to ask for supporting or background reading material on your condition.

Some people find it useful taking a friend or relative to the consultation, as their presence can be calming but useful too. They can encourage you to ask relevant questions, and help you to interpret the doctor’s statements.


  1. Howie JG, Heaney DJ, Maxwell M, et al; Quality at general practice consultations: cross sectional survey. BMJ. 1999 Sep 18;319(7212):738-43

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