Improving Communication with my Healthcare Providers

It can be difficult to talk about pain with health care providers. 

In this module, you will learn about:

  1. Communication skills to help you get better health care.
  2. Being prepared for appointments and using tools to get organized and communicate with your health care providers.
  3. Working through potential problem scenarios ahead of time so you’re ready to communicate.

Communication tools

Use the strategy “Take PART” to get the most from an appointment: Prepare, Ask, Repeat, Take action [worksheet adapted from LeFort & Webster, 2015]

Download and complete the Take Part Worksheet 

  • Prepare

    • Write out a pain profile ahead of time so you are prepared to answer questions about your pain. This will help the heath care provider better understand your pain.
    • Pain language can be helpful to incorporate into conversations with your health care provider.
    • Pain intensity – describe the strength of your pain.
    • Pain effects – how does the pain affect you?
    • Make an appointment agenda – write a list of your questions and concerns. Highlight the two or three most important ones to make sure you get to them first, in case time is limited.
    • List your medications, including vitamins and over the counter supplements.
  • Ask

    • Diagnosis: What’s wrong? Is there a known cause? What is the future outlook? What can be done to prevent worsening/manage?
    • Tests: How will the results affect my treatment? What will happen if I’m not tested? How should I prepare for this test? What will happen during this test? How and when will I get the results?
    • Treatments: Are there any choices in treatment? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each option? What will happen if I am not treated
    • Follow-up: Should I call or return for a follow up? If so, when? What should I be looking for in terms of my symptoms? What should I do if my symptoms occur? 
  • Repeat

    • Briefly repeat key points back to the health care provider.
    • Take notes or bring someone along to important visits.
    • Ask the provider to write a short summary of the visit for you.
  • Take Action

    • At the end of a visit, you need to understand clearly what to do next.
    • If you are not planning to or can’t follow the provider’s recommendations, let them know – they might have other suggestions.
    • Think about how you are going to implement any recommendations that you want to try. 

Think about how you are going to implement any recommendations that you want to try. 

If you are not planning to or cannot follow the provider’s recommendations, let them know – they might have other suggestions.

Key concepts:

  • The “Take PART” strategy – Prepare, Ask, Repeat, Take action – to health care can help you get the most out of your health care.
  • Be honest with yourself and with your healthcare provider
    • if you are not going to or cannot follow recommendations- let them know
    • if you do not understand- ask for clarification

Problem solving some common issues in health care:

 Work through scenarios ahead of time, so that you are ready to communicate effectively!

  • “I hate the phone system.”

    1. It can be frustrating to play phone tag.
    2. Ask if there is a faster way to reach someone.
    3. Make use of online medical record access, such as Women’s College Hospital’s “My health record” portal 
  • “It takes too long to get an appointment.”

    1. Ask for the first available appointment.
    2. Ask about cancellations – sometimes you can get called in on short notice if someone else cancels.
  • “I can never talk to my doctor.”

    1. Ask about the amount of time you will need when you make the appointment, especially if it is more than 10 or 15 minutes.
    2. Ask if your providers are able to communicate by email, bearing in mind that email is never a secure way to share health information.
    3. Find out if there is a quick way to process routine things like medication refills.
  • “It’s so hard to schedule appointments that work for me.”

    1. Make the practical side of your situation clear to help healthcare professionals.
    2. Make suggestions you can use (for example: "It's better for my job if I can come early in the morning.")
  • “I feel so much pressure to agree to whatever my health care provider suggests.”

    1. Learn about your health condition using reliable sources, such as these modules, www.women’, and Don't be afraid to ask questions, and try to be specific.
    2. Take your time to make decisions about your health care.
    3. Hold conversations in private places, not waiting rooms or hallways. You deserve to have privacy as well as the full attention of your healthcare professional.
  • Build a relationship that works for you.

    1. Be appreciative when you feel thankful. Thanking your healthcare provider goes a long way.
    2. Feel free to change to a different healthcare provider. If your healthcare provider is just not a good fit for you, ask to see a different practitioner or seek out another place of care.

Key concepts:

  • Challenging scenarios may arise when you are seeking to utilize health care resources.
  • Through effective communication, preparation, utilization of available and reliable resources, and proper decision-making, you will be able to mitigate these challenges as they arise.

Online Communication Tools

American Chronic Pain Association:

WebMD Pain Coach App:

Catch My Pain App:

Manage My Pain App:


Continue through the Pain U online Modules to learn more: 

Communication Principles

Communication at work

Communication with friends and family


  1. American Chronic Pain Association. (2018). Communication Tools. Retrieved 13 Feb. 2018 from
  2. Cegala, Donald J., McClure, Leola, Marinelli, Terese M., Post, Douglas M. (2000). The effects of communication skills training on patients’ participation during medical interviews. Patient Education and Counseling, 41, 209–222.
  3. Grady, Alice, Carey, Mariko, Bryant, Jamie, Sanson-Fisher, Rob, Hobden, Breanne. (2017) A systematic review of patient-practitioner communication interventions involving treatment decisions. Patient Education and Counseling, 100, 199–211.
  4. LeFort, S., Webster, L., Lorig, K., Halsted, H., Sobel, D., Laurent, D., Gonzalez, V., & Minor, M. (2015). Living a Healthy Life with Chronic Pain. Boulder, Colorado: Bull Publishing Company.
  5. Lennox Thompson, Bronwyn. (2016). Tips for Talking with Healthcare Providers. Live Plan Be.
  6. Retrieved 13 Feb. 2018 from


76 Grenville St. Toronto, ON M5S 1B2 Canada

TAPMI Hub Clinic

Phone: 416-323-6269 Office Fax: 416-323-2666 Hours: 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Monday – Friday


Dr. Tania Di Renna, Medical Director Sandra Robinson, Administrative Director