(662) 282-4226 Open hours: Mon 7:30am - 7:00pm, T/W/Th 7:30am – 5:30pm, Fri 7:30am – 4:00pm
I don’t understand what my provider said, but I’m afraid to tell them

I don’t understand what my provider said, but I’m afraid to tell them

I don't know what my provider said

Have you ever left a doctor’s appointment more confused about your health than when you arrived? Maybe your provider prescribed a new medication or diagnosed you with an illness whose name is so long you can’t quite remember how it went. Either way, you are not alone. Nine out of ten patients across the nation have trouble remembering and understanding what their provider said. Even highly educated patients suffer from a lack of understanding about medical terms especially when they are under extreme stress or not feeling well.

Not understanding how to take your medication, how to care for an illness at home or when you should go back to the doctor can lead to serious complications and even death. If it’s so important to understand what your medical condition, what can patients do to make sure they fully understand what their doctor said?

Repeat it back

New guidelines suggest providers ask patients to repeat back in their own words what the provider said. If your doctor or nurse practitioner does not ask you to repeat their instructions back, you can offer it yourself. Simply start with, “You’ve given me a lot of information, here’s what I heard, is that right?” Then repeat back what your provider said.

Take someone with you

When your provider prescribes diagnoses an illness, it’s often hard to remember all the information when you get home. Ask a friend or relative to join you for the appointment. They might take notes or ask questions you can’t think to ask.

Ask questions

Sometimes it’s hard to remember all the questions you want to ask when you’re sitting in the crosshairs of your provider’s stare, even if they have the best bedside manner. Write a list of questions you want to ask prior to your appointment. The National Patient Safety Foundation suggests starting with these three questions:

  • What is my main problem?
  • What do I need to do?
  • What is it important that I do this?

If your provider adds a medication, always ask “should I continue taking all my current medications as well?”

Record the conversation

Most clinics have notices prohibiting the use of cell phones to record or take pictures in their building. These rules are based on HIPAA to keep other patients’ information safe. Ask your provider if you can record your conversation in case you can’t remember what they said when you get home. If you are comfortable writing notes, keep a notebook strictly for medical visits. Ask your provider to spell any conditions with which you are unfamiliar.

Know your history

Either write down a list of medications you take or take a picture of the label with your cell phone. They will ask for an update of medications at the beginning of the appointment. Also, list any major illnesses or surgeries you have had or major illnesses of your parents. If the patient is a child, list any illnesses such as high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer or heart disease in the child’s mother or father. Bringing this list to the appointment with you saves you time when filling out forms and helps the doctor to have a complete record of the patient’s medical history.

Healthcare has changed over the last two decades. Providers have less time to spend with individual patients and patients have more access to information via the internet than ever before. Admitting you don’t understand what a provider said can be intimidating. Don’t be embarrassed. You are among the majority.

Clearing up misunderstandings will give you confidence when you need to make a medical decision and it’s shown to lead to healthier lifestyles. Start taking control of your health by ensuring you understand what your doctor said.


Speak Your Mind


Our Providers Are Ready to Help You

Request Your Appointment Now