Ask Joan: Communicating with your health care providers
February 20, 2024

Q. I’ve been diagnosed with some complicated health conditions and have many appointments with both my primary care doctor and other specialists. Lately, I’ve been very frustrated because it takes so long to make an appointment and then I have to wait months to be seen. In my last appointment, I waited more than an hour for the doctor and when he finally got to me, he only had 10 minutes for our visit. I left feeling confused and still had so many questions. Do you have any advice?

A. I can understand why you are feeling confused and frustrated. Our doctors are such an important part of good health care and when we don’t get what we need from them, it can leave us discouraged and uncertain. Stanford University has offered a series of tips to help make the most of your doctor’s visit:

1. Schedule your appointment for first thing in the morning. This minimizes any wait time you might have, which means the doctor won’t be behind and will have more time to spend with you.

2. Prepare for your visit in advance. Make a list of all the questions you have for the doctor. Prioritize them in terms of what is most important for you to know so the doctor can get to those first.

3. Consider bringing a friend or family member with you. This person can help ask questions or interpret what the doctor might be saying. This is especially important if you have several complicated conditions or are having difficulty with any of your medications.

4. Be patient and courteous. The saying “you get more flies with honey than vinegar” is especially true when working with your doctor’s office. Chances are they are just as frustrated as you are when they are running behind. They want to provide you with good care and want you the leave them with answers to all your questions.

If you have access to a computer, consider asking questions before or after your visits through the patient portal if that is available through your health-care provider.

However, if you find that no matter how hard you try, you still can’t communicate well with your health care team, it might be time to explore a different doctor. It’s important that you have confidence in your provider. Your insurer can help you identify other doctors who are accepting new patients.

If you’d like to learn more about developing a good working relationship with your doctor, considering attending one of our Healthy Living Center of Excellence’s Chronic Disease Self-Management workshops. You can learn more about this by calling 800-892-0890.

Are you caring for an older adult or need help locating healthy aging resources? Our experienced staff is available to help. Visit us online at for more information. You can also call us at 800-892-0890 or email

Joan Hatem-Roy is the Chief Executive Officer of AgeSpan.

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