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Ask the Expert

Doctor’s Office Tips

Doug Terwilliger , NEA Member Benefits

What to say, what to ask, how to behave

Research says patients who have good relationships with their doctors tend to be more satisfied with their care—and get better results. We’ve adapted these tips from a publication of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services to help you get good health care.

How do You Find a Good Doctor for your Condition?

  • Ask your doctor which doctor he or she would use personally if they had your condition.
  • Ask a trusted friend or relative or someone you know.
  • Search the Web for support groups, often email-based, with information about your condition.
  • If you are unsure about your doctor’s proposed treatment, get a second opinion.

Give Information. Don’t Wait to Be Asked.

  • You know important things about your symptoms and your health history. Tell your doctor what you think he or she needs to know.
  • It is important to tell your doctor personal information—even if it makes you feel embarrassed or uncomfortable.
  • Bring a “health history” list with you, and keep it up to date. You might want to make a copy of the form for each member of your family.
  • Bring any medicines you are taking, or a list of those medicines (include when and how often you take them) and what strength. Talk about any allergies or drug reactions you have had.
  • Bring other medical information, such as x-ray films, test results, and medical records.

Get Information.

  • Ask questions. If you don’t, your doctor may think you understand everything that was said.
  • Write down your questions before your visit. List the most important ones first to make sure they get asked and answered.
  • Consider bringing someone along to help you ask questions and understand the answers.
  • Take notes.
  • Some doctors do not mind if you bring a tape recorder to help you remember things. But always ask first.
  • Let your doctor know if you need more time.

Take Information Home.

  • Ask for written instructions.
  • Ask for samples of prescription drugs.
  • Your doctor also may have brochures and audio tapes and videotapes that can help you. If not, ask how you can get such materials.

Once You Leave the Doctor’s Office, Follow Up.

  • If you have questions, call.
  • If your symptoms get worse, or if you have problems with your medicine, call.
  • If you had tests and do not hear from your doctor, call for your test results.
  • If your doctor said you need to have certain tests, make appointments at the lab or other offices to get them done.
  • If your doctor said you should see a specialist, make an appointment.


For More

Ask Consumer Reports About “Best Buy” Drugs

Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports magazine, has a Web site—  that acompares a variety of prescription drugs on price, effectiveness and safety to help you and your doctor choose the most effective and affordable medicines. 

Their information on drug effectiveness comes from the Drug Effectiveness Review Project (DERP), which uses teams of physicians and researchers at the Oregon Health and Science University Evidence-Based Practice Center.

The Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs project works with doctors’, pharmacists’, and nurses’ groups as well as organizations representing seniors, community groups, labor unions, employers, and insurance companies to educate consumers about how they can get better value for their prescription drug dollar.

The NEA along with the AFL-CIO, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the Alliance for Retired Americans, and consumer advocacy groups have partnered with Consumers Union to provide this information to members.

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