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Give Your Doctor The News—Accurately

Give Your Doctor The News—Accurately

When Robert Palmer sings “Doctor, Doctor, give me the news,” you know he’s gonna get diagnosed with a bad case of the romantic blues. But most of the time it takes more than a song and a plea to let your doctor know what’s really ailing you.

Unfortunately, patients (YOU?) often feel like their doc is not easy to talk to. In fact, studies show that you’re reluctant to seem “difficult” and docs are often so authoritarian that you fear saying much of anything will rile them.

Well, since you want to make sure you communicate precisely what’s bothering you in a way that will get heard, here’s a suggestion from the annual meeting of the Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine. Write down your answers to the following questions and take them with you to your next doctor appointment:

  • Where is your symptom? (Fatigue might be all over, for example.) And what does it feel like? (Pain may be throbbing, aching or sharp.)
  • How long have you had the symptom? Include info on how often it happens; how long it lasts; and if it’s getting worse, better or staying the same.
  • What were you doing when you first noticed the symptom? Were you sitting, walking? Arguing with someone?
  • Are any other symptoms associated with this one -- for example, light-headedness or shortness of breath?
  • How bad is it on a scale of 1 to 10?
  • What aggravates the symptom?
  • What alleviates the symptom?

Accurate treatment starts with accurate information. Make sure that’s available.

Medically reviewed in January 2020.

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