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Never Say These Words to Your Doctor, Say Experts

Some things are better left unsaid.

Doctors are professionals. They're also people. Some of the things patients say can be frustrating on both counts. The worst-case scenario for everyone involved is that such crossed wires can lead to less-than-optimal care. To make the most of your doctor-patient relationship, they say, be an active participant in your care and an open communicator—but some things are better left unsaid when seeking a doctor's care. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Anything That Isn't True

Serious doctor listening to patient explaining her painful in his office

Being dishonest with your doctor can put your health on the line. "Do not ever hide anything from a doctor," advises Chaye McIntosh, clinical director of ChoicePoint Health in Fair Lawn, New Jersey. "From your symptoms to your lifestyle and diet, share everything with a doctor verbally. Also, I can't emphasize how important it is to communicate any mistake you've made, like missing your medication. Communicate that—don't hide it because of fear."


"I'm Driving Right Now"

Young woman looking to her smartphone while driving car

Virtual doctor's visits are now more available than ever. They can be a boon for your health—if you don't risk your life during your appointment. "With the rise of telemedicine, the worst thing a patient can say during an appointment is 'I'm driving right now'," says Rajinder Chahal, MD, a California-based endocrinologist and founder of, a telemedicine job board. "This is dangerous. I've had to ask many patients to pull over while driving to do the appointment. It's important to treat a telehealth appointment with the same respect as an in-person one to get the most out of your visit."


"How About This Instead?"

Unhappy patient speaking with doctor in medical office

According to the medical journal Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management, more than 40% of people risk their health by misunderstanding, forgetting, or ignoring healthcare advice, says Maria Ortiz-Tweed, MD, a pediatrician in Tampa, Florida. "As a pediatrician, not only do I take care of my young patients, but I always seek to gain the trust of their parents," she adds. "When it comes to treatment recommendations, there are times when parents refuse and start 'bargaining' about alternative treatments they consider to be better. Yes, nowadays parents are more aware of medical issues because of the internet, but that doesn't necessarily mean that the information they find is reliable and accurate."


"OK, Whatever"

man pointing at the notes and asking a question to his therapist while having a psychological session

But staying silent about your questions or concerns won't lead to optimal care, either. "Some patients simply accept a doctor's opinion, appear to accept it, then don't take medication or don't show up for the next appointment," says neuro-ophthalmologist Bradley J. Katz, MD, Ph.D., of Axon Optics. "If you disagree with the doctor or have a concern, raise it. Otherwise, the doctor doesn't have the opportunity to explain to you why they diagnosed you a certain way or made certain recommendations, and you might not be making the best health decisions for yourself as a result."


"But Influencers Say…"

Business woman working from home wearing protective mask

Doctors have long been frustrated by the growing epidemic of self-diagnosis, a phenomenon they call Doctor Google. Coming in a close second these days: Doctor Instagram. "My field of medicine perhaps lends itself most widely to research done on Instagram and TikTok before a patient's visit," says Noreen Galaria, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist in Northern Virginia. She advises never saying things like, "On Instagram, I read that I actually shouldn't be using this prescription" or "There's an influencer I follow that says never to use that."


"Is It Really Worth That Much?"

Older patient at woman doctor office paying exam with credit card

"In my practice, we manage spider and varicose veins, and sometimes we hear patients say, 'Is it really worth that much?'" says Faisal Siddiqi, MD, FACC, a New Jersey-based cardiologist. "That is an incredibly difficult question and puts us in an awkward position to defend our value. As a vein specialist, we might be a little different than your visit to the primary care office. A considerable amount of time goes into treatment and the things that go on behind the scenes to make a quality practice. I would recommend saying, 'I really would like to have you perform my treatments. Are there any special offers available at this time?'" And to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor. Read more about Michael
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