Doctor-Patient Communication: How to Prepare for a Visit to the Hospital

Desmond walks towards the community General Hospital on Monday, with a pain that kept him awake all through the night. As he approaches the reception, he meets a sea of other individuals who have come to the facility for diverse reasons. He considers turning back, but the pain by the left side of his stomach nudged him to stay.

Finally, he gets a chance to see the Doctor after an octave-voiced nurse called out his name along with two others. Like students marching into their classrooms, the trio marched towards the seat at the entrance of the Doctor’s office.

Luckily for him, he was first on that row, so he proceeds inside the Doc’s office. In what seemed like a script, he relayed some symptoms and the Doctor immediately starts scribbling down prescriptions, after making a generalized diagnosis from the symptoms relayed, and goes, “NEXT!” In a week’s time, Desmond is back at the hospital…

A Visit to the Hospital

The above scenario relates a typical Doctor-Patient communication experience in some parts of the world. This brings on the awareness, that it is not sufficient to tag health care as inadequate only because of the lack of material healthcare facilities.

The importance that proper symptoms communication plays in the process of quality diagnosis cannot be underestimated. Not only does it help the patient to recover quickly and better, while also being cost-effective, it also saves the Health Care Provider (HCP) time and help them to channel their energy in the right direction. The issue of ineffective Doctor-Patient communication is a grass-root challenge that needs to be addressed from two ends- the HCP and the patients. Hence, this expository on How to prepare for a visit to the Hospital.

The Patient

There are two categories of patients that visit the Hospital; one with visible and measurable symptoms. For a patient that has a cut or accident, the origin of their pain- which is the cut, is usually visible and to some extent measurable physically by the Doctor or HCP. 

The other category of patients is those with invisible and unmeasurable symptoms. Similar to the scenario depicted earlier, Desmond is experiencing some discomfort in his stomach which cannot be seen with naked eyes, hence the HCP depends on the description of Desmond to determine the intensity and location of the pain. Sometimes these categories of patients are little children who cannot even relate in words, how they feel. We would discuss in succession below how to manage either of the situations.


Research Your Symptoms

The availability of information in this era has allowed for more involvement in almost every field, and Health should not be an exception. The habit of browsing health tips and symptoms is encouraged, and though we cannot conclude a diagnosis by the information that we get online, we can at least get a clue and this can aid better communication between Patients and their Health Care Providers. 

The concern about the ingenuity of some information gotten online is notable. This is why attention is drawn towards seeking medical information online from only notable medical sites like Smart Patients, MedlinePlus, Drugs.com, and others.

In instances where children are the patients, parents and guardians should communicate with their wards, and research their observations.

I look forward to that time in my country when patients would be able to submit reports detailing their symptoms prior to when they visit the hospital physically. This would in a way encourage honest and detailed communication in a more relaxed environment.

Effective Doctor-Patient Communication is Possible

Stay abreast of your health history/ stay consistent with HCP if possible

In a research conducted by “ABC”, 70% of Doctors related that they expect and want their patients to give an honest and detailed summary of their health history; this should include time, duration, symptoms, and medications used in the past and also a breakdown of how the treatment went. This could serve as an understanding foundation for a new diagnosis, especially with new hospitals and HCPs who do not have a document of your medical history.

See a list of other useful health information, here.

As an alternative, people are advised to be consistent with the medical facilities they use, so that the track of their medical history can be readily accessed. And while the document might say a thing, reality might be a little different, especially as it concerns medications.

The issue of non-completion of medication is prevalent across many continents. Many individuals are fond of discontinuing drugs once symptoms stop and this is a cause of re-infection and AMR (Antimicrobial resistance) across the globe. So, while medical practitioners trust the books to provide them with information, they also need the patients to reveal the truth about how the treatment went with them.

Make a List of Symptoms

You might run out of time, but don’t run out of points. Having a list of symptoms before seeing the Doctor can help you to achieve that. Ensure you guide your Doctor by making important points that can guide the HCP and follow through with their advice.

N.B- One challenge that medical practitioners have with their patients is patients’ non-compliance with medical advice. Especially as it concerns tests and drug use. Many times, the center for tests are often different from the initial point of consultation, and when tests is numerous, patients skip some which should have contributed to the diagnosis process. Drug use is often skipped too due to several like-a-work schedule.

Proper communication can help patients maximize their schedule and help medicine efficiency.

Go with a Friend or Family

The last but not the least recommendation is to go with a friend or family member who is updated about one’s medical history. Apart from being able to aid our communication with the HCP, it also helps to ease the tension when things are not going as smoothly as we want.

The Doc’s part

Like was mentioned, there are two sides to Doctor-Patient communication. Above, we have highlighted some of the actions that patients can take to aid this communication. Now, a brief on the HCP’s side.

Disclaimer- We are not trying to teach medical practitioners their job, rather these are suggestions of approaches that make the process better.

Of all the diverse needs of patients that visit the hospital, one seems common, Patients want to know if the consultant really cares about them or just wants to get rid of them!

Hence, empathy is top of the list from the Doctor’s side. Most times, the patients are confused and cannot think of the best way to communicate their feelings. Empathy and asking open-ended questions can get them saying the right things that would help the diagnosis.

This article says much of everything I agree with concerning the Doctor’s part, it even has a video scenario!


It has been a ride, and I do hope you picked something. If you want to shed some light on this topic, kindly drop them in the comment section, I would be sure to respond!

Or join my conversation here


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