Tips for understanding health information

Many people find health information difficult to understand and may be putting their health at risk.

Recent research has shown that people aged 15 – 34 years were least likely to ask a doctor, nurse or pharmacist to explain things they don’t understand. Embarrassment was ranked as the main reason for not seeking more information from a healthcare professional.

Here are some tips to help you understand health information.

Be prepared

Sometimes it’s difficult to remember everything you wanted to know or ask your doctor or health care worker. One way to avoid sometimes unsatisfactory health consultations is to be prepared. Write a note of any questions or concerns you have before your appointment so you don’t forget anything important.

Ask questions

There are three simple questions patients should ask of their doctor, nurse or pharmacist during every visit. These questions are:

  • What is my main problem?
  • What do I need to do?
  • Why is it important for me to do this?

And be sure to ask your healthcare provider to explain any complicated language in plain English.

Check your understanding

Repeat back to the healthcare provider what you think they said to you.

Often it is useful to check your understanding of what has been said to you by explaining the information back to your healthcare provider. That way they can be sure you understood the discussion and can correct anything you may have misunderstood.

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