Communicating With Your Advanced Heart Failure Healthcare Team

Updated:Jun 29,2012

Getting the most out of a visit to the doctor’s office requires good communication between you and your healthcare team. Knowing what questions to ask and understanding what your healthcare provider is saying can help you feel confident you are getting the best care.

Communication is also the core of shared decision making in advanced heart failure. You and your doctor discuss your preferences and goals and which treatments or care options match those goals.

Advanced heart failure patients should let their healthcare team know they want to have these talks, said Larry A. Allen, M.D., M.H.S., cardiologist at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Center in Denver. “If both sides come to the table with the idea that these things are going to be discussed, tough decisions are going to be brought up in a framework where both parties want to talk about them.”

Here are tips for communicating with your healthcare team:

  • Be prepared: Bring a list of all medicines you’re taking to the appointment. Make a list of your current symptoms and changes in your condition and how you feel. Write down your concerns and questions.
  • Ask questions: Making the right decisions for you starts with asking questions. Take notes or record your conversation so you can review the information later or share it with family. Consider these questions:
    • Will you talk openly and honestly with me about my condition?
    • Will you help me make decisions about my care that match my preferences and goals?
    • What can I expect in the future in terms of symptoms and outlook?
    • What treatment and care decisions do I need to make based on my current situation?
    • What decisions do I need to make about therapies or interventions I may need in the future
    • What are the potential benefits of the recommended treatment options? What are the risks and burdens of each option?
    • Can we set up an annual talk to review my goals and treatment decisions for the present and my plans for future care?
  • Clarify what you hear: If the information you receive from the healthcare team is unclear, ask them to use simpler words or explain it in a different way. Then repeat what you’ve heard back to them in your own words.
Learn more:

Heart Failure

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