English  |  Español
All Conditions & Treatments

Talking with Your Doctor

A tip sheet for better communication between older patients and their doctors

The VOICES 60+ Program at HSS aims to help low income, ethnically diverse older adults that come to HSS for the treatment of their rheumatologic and orthopedic conditions. One way the program can aid these patients is by focusing on communication between our patients and their doctors.


Take an active role in your healthcare to get the most from your visit with your doctor. Being a partner with your doctor will help you to understand your arthritis or orthopedic condition, as well as your treatment choices. Let your doctor know how your health affects your daily life, so your doctor can best meet your needs.

Please let the appointment desk or other HSS staff know if you need assistance in the language you prefer to use during your medical visit.

Here are tips to help you get ready for your visit with your doctor. VOICES 60+ volunteers can also talk with you about these issues.

Prepare for your visit:

  • Bring a list of the questions and concerns you most want to talk about. Include any changes in your health since your last visit.
  • Write down any major changes or stresses in your life, such as the loss of a loved one. Life events can affect your health.
  • Bring a list of all your medicines, vitamins, supplements, and herbal remedies with you. You can also bring the medicine bottles with you.
  • Tell the doctor the dose and how often you take each medicine. Give your doctor the phone number of your pharmacy.

Be open with your doctor:

  • Your doctor can suggest the best treatment only if you say what is really going on in your life day to day.
  • Help your doctor understand how your culture affects your view of your illness and treatment choices.
  • It’s important to share any concerns you’re having, even though it may feel uncomfortable. Some examples are sleep, getting to the bathroom on time, appetite, memory, and sexual changes. Tell your doctor about changes in your mood, such as feeling depressed or very worried.
  • Tell your doctor about your habits, including eating, smoking, drinking, and drug use.

Ask questions and take notes:

  • At the beginning of the visit, tell the doctor you have questions and concerns, to be sure you have a chance to discuss them.
  • Ask questions if you don’t understand what your doctor is telling you. This can include a medical word or instructions for taking a medicine.
  • Bring a trusted family member or friend with you for support and assistance. Another listening ear can help.
  • The time with your doctor is limited. Stay focused on what is most important to you.
  • Ask your doctor the following three important questions to help you get the information you need.*
    1. What is my main problem?
    2. What do I need to do?
    3. Why is it important for me to do this?

Other questions you may want to ask:

  • How will this diagnosis/illness affect my day-to-day life?
  • Why do you recommend this test?
  • How will this medicine help me?
  • What other treatment is available?
  • What are the possible side effects of this treatment?
  • Where can I get more information and support for my illness?

Let us know if you find this tip sheet helpful. VOICES 60+ wants to enhance your experience as a patient at HSS.

VOICES 60+ is a Department of Social Work Programs and Volunteer Department initiative. The Program is made possible by support from the Jessie Ball duPont Fund and Hospital for Special Surgery.

Monday-Friday, 10 am-3 pm
7th floor Rheumatology waiting room

*Reference: Partnership for Clear Health Communication

This Tip Sheet is adapted from: "Talking with Your Doctor: A Guide for Older People" National Institute on Aging, http://www.nia.nih.gov/.


Juliette Kleinman
VOICES 60+ Senior Program Manager, Hospital for Special Surgery

Related articles

Success Stories


In-person and virtual appointments

Related Content

Departments and Services