How to Get Your Doctor to Listen

Doctor visits are never easy. Appointments can feel rushed, leaving you feeling unheard and unsupported.

To find out what works best when folks with multiple sclerosis (MS) see a doctor, we reached out to the Facebook community. We asked, “How do you get your doctor to actually listen?”

More than 150 community members shared some great tips for those who may be feeling frustrated at their doctor appointments.

Bring someone with you

Having an advocate in the room can be a huge help. Most people get nervous, and some cannot think as clearly when at the doctor’s office.

A spouse, partner, friend, or other advocate can help remind you of what you wanted to talk about. They can also help voice your concerns. And your advocate can take notes to help you remember the doctor’s suggestions and instructions.

“‘Take someone’ is one of the best things I have learned. My husband has often reminded me of symptoms I had experienced, and he asked for clarification of things I had not thought to ask. A doctor visit can stir up emotions. It is great to have a second set of ears and another brain to help process it all, especially when feeling overwhelmed, vulnerable, or scared.”

“I think my wife scares the staff because after she got involved, they started listening and responding to my messages right away instead of a week later.”

Write it down

Before your doctor visits, keep a journal of your symptoms. Also, jot down any questions or concerns you want to address with your doctor. Keeping a record helps you track the severity, frequency, and onset times of your symptoms. This saves time during your appointment and is also great to have in case you switch doctors in the future.

“Put it in writing before you go. I keep a document on my computer that lists my meds, doctors, diagnosis, non-prescription meds, etc. Every time I go to the doctor, I put a list of what I want to tell the doctor about on the document.”

“It really does help to write down your goals you want to discuss with your doctor and to keep the focus on those goals. It is so easy to get off track and also have too wide of a conversation. Break it down into small goals so you can at least get some things taken care of.”

“I have kept a journal of symptoms since I was diagnosed in 2012. It has been a great tool for myself and my appointments.”

Type it up

Typing up your journal as well as your questions and concerns can make your written record much more readable. Plus, having it saved as an electronic file will help you and your doctor stay organized in the long run.

“It takes some effort, but I found doing it as a computer document instead of just writing it out makes the provider look more closely at my list.”

Keep a copy for yourself

A great way to hold your doctor accountable is to make a copy of your questions and concerns and give it to them. By keeping another copy for yourself, you will have a written record of everything to back up your requests.

“I make sure to hand my written notes to the doctor (not the intake person). I tell them it is their copy, and that I already kept a copy for myself. This puts the doctor on notice regarding what needs to be addressed and ordered.”

Remember that you have a choice of doctors

You should not have to continue to see a doctor that dismisses you and your concerns. Hopefully your insurance will cover you if you see someone else, even if that doctor is a bit farther away. 

Do not subject yourself to a poor doctor experience, if at all possible. It is okay to change doctors in the search for one who makes you feel heard and comfortable. Many community members shared that they have found supportive doctors who listen and make the process so much easier.

“You are the customer. You can fire the doctor at any time.”

“​​Better yet, find a new doctor! I would never return if I thought my doctor was not listening!”

“My doctor listens quite well.”

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