How to Communicate Effectively with Your Child's Doctor
Effective communication is a key ingredient in receiving the best health care for your child. As a parent, you are your child's best advocate and have the responsibility to ensure you are making the best choices for your child's health care. The only way to ensure quality of care is to be an effective comminicator with your child's doctors.
Before the first visit, make a list of symptoms your child has been experiencing. You will want to make a list of all medications and supplements your child is taking and write down any questions you have for the doctor. By writing these things down, you ensure that you do not forget any important details. This comes in handy if your child becomes fussy during the appointment. Fussy children are a distraction and often cause parents who do not have everything written down to forget key pieces of information.
At the first visit, be open with your child's doctor. Explain what your expectations are for communication, treatment and care. Make sure that you understand how results will be reported to you. Will the doctor call with results? Will the nurse call? Will results be available online? You need to be sure to find out office policies regarding reporting results, as well.
Take notes during appointments. Write down the details of any procedures the doctor suggests and be sure to write down any medication instructions given at the appointment. I have found myself at the pharmacist and had the pharmacist ask, "Did the doctor tell you how this medication was to be given?" I usually write the answers to my questions next to the question in my notebook, so that I can review it again later. Do not be afraid to ask the doctor to repeat his answer. I have even asked them to spell words that I think are important to my understanding, yet do not know how to spell.
If you have a sensitive topic that you would like to discuss with your child's doctor and you would prefer your child not to hear, ask the physician to discuss the matter in the hallway.
When you arrive home, review your notes and write down any questions you think of as you review the notes. I always keep the medical notebook handy so that I can write questions down as they pop into my head. I have often faxed or emailed my questions to the doctor in advance of our appointments so that the doctor can have his answers prepared when we arrive.
If the doctor is part of your child's health care team, let him know what your expectations are in regard to communicationg with the other health care professionals on the team. If you expect the doctor to send reports to the other team members like your child's pediatrician or other specialists, then you need to let him know. Often times, the office has forms to fill out regarding who is sent copies of appointment notes.
If the doctor is unable or unwilling to fulfill your expectations, find a doctor who is willing to work with you. If your child's physician is not willing to spend time to answer all of your questions or listen to your concerns, it is time to move on to a doctor who will. Your child is precious and you are your child's best advocate. Through open communication, you can ensure that your child will receive the best care possible from his physicians.