Living Well

Research Shows Patient Preferences Matter

Last updated: Nov 12, 2012


Authors of a study recently published in the British Medical Journal suggest that the wide range of treatment options (including tests, procedures, and ongoing evaluation) for many conditions and diseases makes it more important than ever for physicians to understand their patients’ preferences when deciding on treatment.

Because different treatments come with different risks, benefits, and side effects, doctors who understand what their patients’ care about are better able to choose treatment that is aligned with patients’ goals, lifestyles, and tolerances.1

"Having your doctor understand your values and partnering with him or her in decisions about your treatment means you will more likely avoid unwanted surprises and be satisfied with your treatment and care," says Summit Medical Group Chief Medical Officer Robert W. Brenner, MD, MMM. Good patient / doctor communication also has the potential to cut health care costs because “informed patients often choose less-intensive care and are more careful about having many procedures.”1

Making Sure Your Doctor Understands You and Your Needs
To stay on top of your health care and ensure your doctor understands and addresses your needs:

  • Fully understand your insurance coverage
  • Keep a calendar of and schedule your screenings
  • Share previous and current health issues with your doctor, including
    • Your symptoms
    • Your health history
    • Life changes and personal issues
    • Medications, vitamins, and supplements you are taking, including
      • Vitamin, supplement, and medication names
      • Dosages for each vitamin, supplement, and medication
      • Schedule for taking vitamins, supplements, and medications
      • Side effects 
  • Bring all your test results, X-rays, and medical records to your appointment
  • Ask questions, including
    • Requesting further explanation if you do not understand something
    • Requesting more time to talk if you need it
  • Take written information and instructions home with you such as
    • Notes you have taken during your appointment
    • Your doctors’ instructions
    • Brochures and educational information
    • Reminders about follow-up appointments, medication refills, and other tests and appointments you might need 
    • Prescriptions

Tips for Your Doctor Visits

  • Before your appointment, write down your questions, listing the most important questions first
  • Take a notebook to your appointment and make notes during your appointment; ask a family member or friend to write for you if necessary
  • Don’t be shy to or embarrassed about discussing anything that concerns you; what you tell your doctor is strictly confidential and will not be shared with anyone without your approval. Remember that your doctor can only provide the care you need if you are honest about your complete medical history, including your lifestyle habits such as smoking, your diet, emotional problems, alcohol and drug use, and not taking medications as prescribed
  • If you need more time to talk about an issue, ask for it; if your doctor isn’t available, ask if the physician assistant or nurse is available or schedule another appointment
  • If you've forgotten something, call your doctor after your appointment

Summit Medical Group
offers comprehensive guides for talking with your doctor!

Please click any of the following links for a list of downloadable questions about:

Remember that your doctor's goal
is to help you protect, maintain, and improve your health.
Working together with him or her can help you achieve your health care goals. 



1. Stop the silent misdiagnosis: patients’ preferences matter. BMJ. 2012;345:e6572. Accessed November 8, 2012.