Even in the best scenarios, communication can break down from time to time. Your health is worth the effort to resolve communication issues with your health care professional if you are not satisfied with his/her performance or treatment you receive from other members of your health care team. Working through communication problems may be preferable to finding another health care professional.

Here are steps you can take to help resolve communication problems:

1. If you don't have enough information about your condition, ask for more.

2. Don't downplay your concerns. Health care professionals see a wide variety of patients with various health concerns each day. You may think your condition seems minor in comparison to your health care professional's other more serious patients, especially if he or she tells you not to worry about your symptoms. However, if you need more information, say so.

3. Offer to call again. If you feel rushed during an appointment, tell your health care professional that you don't feel you've been given enough time to discuss everything. He or she may be busy, but that doesn't necessarily mean that your health care professional doesn't want to help. Ask if you can make a follow-up call to further discuss your condition.

If you have tried to resolve the communication problems with your health care professional and the situation continues, you have several options:

— Consider finding another health care professional

— Contact an advocate. Most health care plans have patient advocates who represent the patient, and can help you talk to your health care professional. If you belong to a large health plan, you can also contact the system administrator. Hospitals have patient advocates on staff to help you resolve issues relating to care received while you are hospitalized.

Copyright 2003 National Women's Health Resource Center Inc. (NWHRC)