How to Advocate for Yourself at the Doctor’s Office

My Patient Rights > How to Advocate for Yourself at the Doctor’s Office

How to Advocate for Yourself at the Doctor’s Office

The Waiting Game
The average doctor’s visit is about 15 minutes. You don’t go everyday so make the most of your 15 minutes! Your appointment is YOUR time to get the help and care you deserve.

To get the most out of your appointment, it’s critical to learn how to effectively communicate and advocate for yourself. Gaining the knowledge and tools necessary to actively partner with your doctor helps ensure you make successful treatment decisions, together.

My Patient Rights compiled the following tips to help you get the most out of your visit with your doctor.

Tips for Talking to Your Doctor

1. Come Prepared

While your doctor is the health care expert, you are the expert on yourself. Only you know what your concerns are, and the questions you need answered. Jot down notes before you go, there’s no shame in having a list! You can take a copy to hand to the doctor.

If you’re seeing your doctor for a specific complaint, think about:

  • how and when it started,
  • what makes it better or worse,
  • any associated symptoms,
  • what you’ve already tried to help alleviate symptoms.

If you’re seeing a specialist, make sure they have access to relevant test results — or bring copies with you. You should also plan to bring an updated medication list or carry all medications in a Ziplock bag. Don’t forget supplements and over-the-counter medications.

2. Prioritize Your Concerns

While this is your appointment, we all know doctors have a lot of appointments scheduled each day. We recommend asking your questions in order of importance, so if your time does get cut short, your most pressing concerns can be addressed.

3. Bring Someone With You
If you are nervous, bring someone with you. If English is your second language, would it be helpful to have someone more proficient with you?

4. Take Notes
Remember to take notes or have someone with you take them.

5. Take Control of Your Appointment
You can start asking your questions or hand the doctor your list. Be sure you understand the answers or ask for clarification. Don’t be embarrassed.

6. Be Honest And Ask Follow Up Questions

If you don’t understand something your doctor is telling you, or you don’t agree with something your doctor is saying, tell them. If you feel misunderstood, tell them. Here are some ways to ask for clarification and to follow up:

  • “I’m worried that we aren’t communicating well. Here’s why I feel that way. What can we do about this?”
  • “I need to talk with you about _____. I feel like I can’t. Can we talk about this?”
  • “Can you help me understand _____?”
  • “Are there other options?”
  • “Will my insurance cover these tests/appointments/medications?”
  • “Why are these tests/appointments/medications necessary?”
  • “When will the results of my tests be ready and how do I learn what they are?”
  • “Do you make video conferencing appointments?”

7. If You’re Not Feeling Better

Make a follow up appointment or call the doctor’s office if you are not feeling better.

The Bottom Line

This is your health and your life. You have the right to ask questions and voice potential concerns. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want or need. You are your own best advocate.

Share Your

My Patient Rights can help guide you in resolving issues so you can get the health care you deserve.


Find answers to commonly asked questions.

Know Your Rights

State and federal law protects your rights. When you sign up for a health plan and/or if you have problems accessing care through your health plan, it is important to know your rights.