Can a stronger doctor-patient relationship lead to better health for you?

A doctor puts his hand on a smiling patient`s shoulder.

A U.S. News & World Report article reported that doctors and patients who view their relationship as a partnership can achieve better healthcare outcomes.1 To help you make the most of your relationship with your doctor, the American Academy of Family Physicians offers the following helpful tips.2

Talk openly with your doctor

It sounds simple, but many patients are uncomfortable speaking freely with their doctor. Always remember that your care providers are there to help you, not judge you. Be honest and open with your doctor. Know that whatever you tell him or her is protected by strict privacy rules.3

Tell your doctor about any past healthcare issues you’ve had

Let him or her know about any new symptoms you’re having, and bring a list of all the medicines you are taking. You may want to take some time to write down a brief health history before your appointment to help you remember the details.

Let your doctor know what’s going on in your life

Remember, well-being is about more than just physical health. Are you feeling stressed? Are you experiencing major life changes? Although you may feel like these types of things aren't important to your doctor, emotions can affect your health in many ways.

Ask questions

Speak up! Let your doctor know if you don't understand something or if your doctor uses unfamiliar medical terms. Asking your doctor to put things in plain English doesn't mean you're not smart; it means you want to be clear about what your doctor is telling you.

If you're still unsure about something your doctor said during your visit, tell him or her you would like more time to talk. If your doctor isn't available, you should be able to talk to a physician's assistant or a nurse. In some cases, you may want to schedule an appointment with your doctor that’s focused solely on helping you better understand your health issues.

Take information home with you

You may not remember everything your doctor shares with you during your appointment, so make it easy on yourself. Write down important information during your visit. It also helps to bring a friend or family member to make sure you understand everything your doctor tells you.

If you want to learn more about your particular health issues, ask your doctor for any brochures, websites or other materials that may help you.

Follow your doctor’s instructions

If your doctor prescribes medicine, requests a test or sets up an appointment with a specialist, it's important that you follow up. If you’re confused about what you need to do or you forget some information, contact your doctor’s office. They are there to help.

Likewise, if a medicine your doctor prescribed doesn’t seem to be working, or if you haven't received test results that your doctor ordered, let your doctor know.

With these simple steps, you can start building a stronger relationship with your doctor. And a strong doctor-patient partnership can lead to better health!


  1. “Patient-Doctor Partnerships: A Recipe for Better Medical Care,” U.S. News & World Report, last accessed January 15, 2021,, opens new window.
  2. “Getting the Most Out of Your Doctor Appointment,” American Academy of Family Physicians, last accessed January 15, 2021,, opens new window.
  3. “Summary of the HIPAA Privacy Rule,” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, last accessed January 15, 2021,, opens new window.