The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recognizes October as Health Literacy Month. During this month, the spotlight is on how the healthcare community can make healthcare information more accessible and understandable. In celebration of Health Literacy Month, Medical Daily has some tips to help you feel more confident before, during and after a visit with your doctor.

Bring someone with you if you can

Ask someone you trust to go with you to the appointment, help you ask questions and advocate for you. Write down your questions before the appointment. The Institute for Healthcare Improvement recommends that you ask these three questions every time you speak with your doctor:

  1. What is my main problem?
  2. What do I need to do?
  3. Why is it important for me to do this?

During the visit write down the answers to your questions, or have your support person take notes. It’s also important to tell the doctor about any symptoms you are having, no matter how small or embarrassing. When asked questions about your personal habits, such as alcohol or drug use, tell the truth. This information can make a big difference in how the doctor approaches your particular medical problem.

Ask if you don’t understand

If you don’t understand something the doctor says, ask them to explain it again, slower. Then repeat the information back to the doctor in your own words to make sure you’ve understood it. Say: “I just want to make sure I understand. What I think you are saying is…”

If your doctor asks you to do something that you’re not sure you can do, there’s almost always another option. If you can’t pay for a medicine or don’t have transportation for your next visit or test, let the doctor know. Healthcare providers want you to be successful in caring for yourself.

Don’t leave empty handed

At the end of the visit ask for the printed summary of your visit. This should include:

  1. a list of problems that were discussed
  2. what you need to do
  3. what symptoms to watch for
  4. when to call the doctor or go to the emergency room
  5. a list of your medicines, including any new medicines and where to get them

The take home

You and your doctor are partners on your health journey. Being open and honest will help your doctor make the best decisions for your situation. Together, you can manage your health wisely.