Best practices for patient-provider communications

As a caregiver it’s important to understand your loved one’s condition and know their benefits and coverage options. This is easier said than done.

Health literacy—the ability to obtain, process and understand basic health information and services to make appropriate health decisions—can be challenging for most people as they try and navigate the health system and deal with different health topics, plan details, forms, calculations, etc.

Developing an effective way to communicate with your loved one’s healthcare providers will help you gain a better understanding of diagnosis and treatment options so you can make informed decisions and improve overall health outcomes.

Best practices for before, during and after medical appointments:


  • Educate yourself about your loved ones condition(s) as much as possible; recognizing that some resources may be more reputable than others.
  • Speak to your loved one about what the goal is for the session and how they’d like to handle you being with them during the appointment.
  • Make a list of questions—together—and put them in priority order.
  • If you have a lot of discussion items, tell the person making the appointment so extra time can be scheduled.
  • Ask about what is needed at or before the appointment, i.e., referral, medical records, when you should arrive, etc.
  • List symptoms, including date of onset, duration, and severity.
  • If you have consulted other physicians about this problem, keep track of previous test results, outcomes and treatment recommendations.
  • Make a list of all current medications and supplements.


  • Bring all necessary records and insurance information.
  • Arrive early, if requested, to complete paperwork.
  • Let the provider know who will be leading the discussion, i.e., you or your loved one.
  • Ask questions from your prepared list of questions.
  • Be clear and concise, share facts; don’t make assumptions.
  • Listen actively and ask for clarification when necessary.
  • Take notes or consider bringing someone along to take notes.
  • Consider tape recording the session with the provider. Remember to ask the provider for permission prior to taping.
  • Ask about next steps, follow-up appointments, referral to a specialist, treatment or testing recommendations, and the timeline for completing them.
  • At the end of the appointment, summarize what the doctor has recommended and find out who to contact if you have questions.


  • Compare notes on how each of you thinks the visit went and identify areas that can be improved on.
  • Follow treatment recommendations or seek a second opinion.
  • Make any necessary follow-up appointments.
  • Don’t hesitate to call with questions.


Your program is here to help you along the journey of life. No situation is too big or too small. When you and your household members need assistance, reach out anytime and we will help get you on the right path to meet your needs.

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