Hospitals, doctors and other healthcare professionals are often held to a higher standard than your average Joe. As a society, we look to them for answers, for guidance and to address our deepest concerns.

Studies show that good communication and patient safety are linked, so talking about the hard stuff is a must. However, with a society that gets offended by cups and sweaters, you can imagine that healthcare professionals might feel the need to tread lightly on certain subjects.  So, it’s up to us, as consumers, to make sure we get what we need from each encounter with our healthcare team. Use the tips I’ve outlined below to get the most out of each doctor’s office visit.

Stay calm

Getting anxious or upset because your doctor is late (and let’s get real, they are) doesn’t do you any good. You still need to be in a position to get the best results, so even when your doctor walks in 30 minutes after your appointment was supposed to start, try to remember that they may have just been dealing with something incredibly difficult and now need to refocus on you.

Ask the right questionsquestion mark

Asking questions is one of the most important things you can do during a doctor’s appointment. Go to each doctor’s appointment prepared—write some questions down and don’t be afraid to ask. Asking the right questions may save your life and can open up the doors to better communication with your healthcare team.

Stand up for you

If you feel like something isn’t right, it probably isn’t. When it comes to your health, be your own advocate. Don’t just ask health questions, take it a step further. Make sure each person who enters your room or office is following protocol, make sure you understand your medications, and don’t leave until you feel 100 percent comfortable.

Bring your notes

While your doctor may have access to your records, it’s important that you also know your health. Bringing information that includes types of medication you’re taking, recently performed tests and even pains or symptoms you’ve had since your last appointment will help you and your doctor have a seamless, thoughtful and well-communicated appointment.

Take notesPen and paper

Doctors can’t remember everything, and neither can you. All too often patients get home and can’t remember what their doctor said. How much of this do I take? What time do I take it? Did he/she say I could still go for my afternoon jog? Don’t hesitate to whip out a pen and paper to take notes. Doctors know they might be giving you a lot of information. Take notes and feel confident when you leave the office. Not a good note-taker? Don’t hesitate to bring someone with you. Your health is that important!

Communication is definitely a two-way street, but make sure you’re doing what you can to stay informed. What are some good experiences you’ve had at the doctor’s office that left you feeling well-informed and connected to your doctor?