Clear communication, both from you to your doctor and from your doctor to you, is essential to understanding and caring for your asthma. Have you ever left your doctor's appointment feeling confused? Do all the different instructions to care for your asthma frustrate you? Do you worry that you are not taking your asthma medications correctly and the possible side effects that might result?
If you answered 'yes' to any of these questions, the following tips and techniques to improve clear communication will help you understand what you need to know, and what you need to do to be an informed, involved patient?
Many patients find their health care confusing. In order for you to have optimal asthma care, your doctor needs you to be informed, understand, and then act on certain parameters to keep your asthma under control and stay healthy. Asking the right questions to your doctor, nurse, pharmacist and other providers can help you better understand what you need to know, and what you need to do to get control of your asthma.
The Partnership for Clear Health Communication recommends that you ask your healthcare provider these 3 questions:
- What is my main problem?
- What do I need to do?
- Why is it important for me to do this?
What is my main problem?
You may know that your asthma is not under optimal control, but why? Am I taking my asthma medications incorrectly? Do I have allergies? Do I need to avoid more triggers? If you don't know the main reason your asthma is under poor control, it is difficult to do anything about it. Asking your doctor specifically why your asthma is not under good control is the first step to improving clear communication and improving your asthma.
What do I need to do?
Once you understand what your main problem is, you can take the next step to do something about it. Asking your doctor 'What do I need to do?' will provide you some specific concrete steps to get better control of your asthma. It is important that you understand and discuss with your doctor if you do not. The tips below can help you improve clear communication if you do not understand.
Why is it important for me to do this?
While it is common to put off or ignore the things that do not seem immediately important, if you do not understand why some aspect of your asthma care is important, you are not likely to achieve good asthma control.
If you ask and understand the answers to these 3 questions you will be on your way to better caring for your asthma.
What if I ask the 3 questions, but still do not understand?
Make sure you tell your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist if you don't understand what you need to do. If you don't understand what you need to do, you will not be able to optimally care for your asthma and might end up in an ER or the hospital as a result.
If you do not understand, you might say, "I want to make sure I understand," and repeat back the new information to your provider so he can confirm your understanding. Alternatively, you might say, "This is all new information to me, can you explain it to me again so I can make sure I understand?" While your healthcare providers are busy, they want you to understand what you need to know and what you need to do to better care for your asthma. Ultimately, if you don't get the information you need, you may need to change providers.
What can I do at my next asthma visit?At your next visit, the Partnership for Clear Health Communication recommends that you try at least one of the following:
- Ask the three questions outlined here.
- Bring a family member or friend to act as a second pair of ears.
- Make a list of questions or concerns to discuss with your doctor.
- Bring your medication bottles or a list of medications to your visit.
- Ask your pharmacist if you have questions about how to take your asthma medications.
Ask Me 3. National Patient Safety Foundation and The Partnership for Clear Health Communication . Consumer information. Accessed February 15, 2009. What Is Ask Me 3?