Tips for Communicating with Your Doctor and Healthcare Team

When people have a serious illness, they often end up with multiple doctors and various other providers. Coordinating care and communicating can be very time-consuming and often confusing. We can assist with all that and our teams will help you through the process. Here are some basic tips:

Preparing for a doctor visit

Write down your questions – it’s easy to get overwhelmed or sidetracked. Keep a list of questions between visits so that you don’t forget. Put the most important questions at the top, because you might not have time to ask everything.

Take someone with you – if you are being examined or if you are the primary caregiver, you might not remember everything that gets said. When you are providing information to the doctor, it’s easy to focus on telling and not on hearing. So, bring someone along whose only job is to listen to instructions, recommendations and options.

Take notes – sometimes you’ll receive a great deal of information very quickly. It helps to have someone else assist with taking notes.

Get definitions – the medical field is full of jargon and complicated terms. So, if you hear something you don’t understand, just ask.

Ask for written materials – most medical professionals have flyers, pamphlets and other materials that you can review at home.

Be honest – it’s hard to get the best treatment if you minimize symptoms or are embarrassed to discuss an issue.

Be clear – tell the doctor what you want and don’t want. If you feel doctors are pushing a treatment, ask questions and tell them what you need to know to make a decision.

Remember, the doctor works for you – you get to make the decisions and ask for whatever information you need.

Going to the emergency room or hospital

To make it easier on everyone, make a kit using a folder, large envelope or other package. You will take this every time you need to visit a new physician, the ER, the hospital or any other healthcare facility. Here’s what should be in the kit:

  • Copy of identification, including Social Security number
  • Insurance or Medicare card
  • List of allergies, if any
  • List of all prescriptions from every doctor
  • List of all doctors, with their specialty and phone numbers
  • Contact information for palliative care team, hospice team or long-term care facility if applicable
  • Durable power of attorney
  • DNR (if applicable)
  • List of family and friends who might need notification, with contact information


National Hospice & Palliative Care Organization – How to Talk with Your Healthcare Providers