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Clear Communication: A NIH Health Literacy Initiative

Talking to Your Doctor

Resources from NIH

A photo of a doctor and patient discussing an x-ray.

More and more, today's patients are playing an active role in their health care. Patients and doctors work closely together to achieve the best possible level of health care. An important part of this partnership is clear communication. Asking the right questions-and obtaining quality information about prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and recovery-help ensure safety, prevent errors, and improve health. For example:

  • Sharing questions about prescriptions with can prevent taking too much or too little medicine
  • Being honest about symptoms can help doctors order the right tests and make the right diagnoses
  • Clear instructions after an operation or hospital stay may be the difference between complete recovery or re-injury and relapse

Taking along a family member, friend or caregiver to help you communicate with your doctor can help. So can writing down your questions or concerns in advance of your appointment. NIH offers several publications that can also help promote meaningful interactions between patients and doctors.

How to Talk to your Doctor


Eye Health


Heart Health

The Heart Truth logo


Kidney Conditions

Kidney Disease

Urologic Conditions

Weight Loss

Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Time to Talk logo


  • Balance, Dizziness and You, National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)
    1-800-241-1044 (voice) or 1-800-241-1055 (TTY)


Illustration of an older man talking to his doctor
This page last reviewed on September 19, 2012

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