21 Things You Should Never Say to Your Doctor

Handsome mature male doctor talking while explaining medical treatment to patient in the consultation.


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Handsome mature male doctor talking while explaining medical treatment to patient in the consultation.

Recognize Who’s the Expert

Doctors are doctors thanks to years of education and training. A strong relationship with your doctor thrives on respect for that dedication and over time also helps develop a good rapport and real trust. These days, when healthcare visits of all kinds may be faster-paced than in the past, or even conducted virtually, making sure you get the most out of your time with any medical expert is more important than ever. Help ensure that happens by avoiding ever blurting out these phrases.

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Healthcare worker at home visit

1. I Know Exactly What This Is…

According to Prevention, a brand that has been providing health information for some 70 years, “most doctors cringe” when you go in saying you know exactly what is wrong with you. Yes, we are all guilty of hitting Google before our doctor visits, but let them do their job — they will ask the questions and assess what they think may be going on, based on your own history and symptoms. You wouldn’t appreciate them telling you how to do your job, would you?

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Hispanic man using laptop in the kitchen and holding a pill box in his hands

2. I Can’t Remember My Medications…

Your doctor should have your latest medication list in your chart, but if it’s a new provider — or you’re taking new vitamins or supplements — have a list ready of everything you are taking. That’s especially important during a video visit, according to a tip sheet provided by University of Chicago Medicine, a not-for-profit academic medical health system in Illinois that traces its history back to 1927 and is best known as UChicago Medicine. Even have the bottles handy and be able to share which ones will need refills, so it all can be done at once. 

High Blood Pressure

3. I 'Think' My Blood Pressure’s Been Okay…

Monitoring some health issues at home can help your doctor determine treatment. For example, regular blood-pressure monitoring can point out any irregularities — but you need to share the information. UChicago Medicine reminds, “If you check your blood sugar or blood pressure on a regular basis, have a list of the dates and times of your readings.” 

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4. My Son Has to Use the Bathroom…

When the patient is your child, you need to be prepared, especially for video visits. UChicago Medicine’s tips for pediatric video visits spell out the basics: “Prepare your child ahead of time. Have them with you. Make sure they have gone to the bathroom and are not hungry. Have something quiet they can play with during the visit.”


senior telemedicine

5. Hold On, I Can’t Hear You…

With telemedicine a growing way of seeing your doctor, video visits are becoming less intimidating. But for those having their first one, UChicago Medicine offers suggestions on creating the ideal environment to help the process go smoothly. A video touches on elements such as lighting, noise levels, space needed (“You may be asked to move around or lie down,”) and privacy. 


6. Wait, I Know There’s Something Else…

Video visits seem a bit more urgent than when you are sitting across from your doctor in the examination room. UChicago Medicine’s tip sheet (and accompanying video introduction to the whole process) reminds you to make the most of your time: “Think about the questions you want to ask your health team, and write them down before your visit.” The last thing you want to do is end the call — and realize you needed one more question answered.  

Doctor Visit

7. I Bet It’s Stress-Related…

Sure, stress causes a lot of problems. Still, don't try to pin all your physical complaints on stress alone. Stress may indeed be a factor, but let the doctor get to the heart of the problem. Prevention notes, “If you downplay your symptoms, your doc is less likely to take them seriously.” 

Inflammatory: Smoking

8. I Haven’t Smoked in Years… (When You Have)

Any lie that a patient tells a doctor can have serious consequences. HCPLive, a news and information source for physicians, has explored some of the worst things a patient can say to his or her physician. Anything that’s not truthful tops the list: “When patients downplay or exaggerate symptoms, lifestyle choices, pain level, or side effects, they usually don’t realize that it can affect their quality of life — and the quality of the treatment that they receive,” said Ryan Gray, M.D.

Talking in store

9. Hope Your Meal Was Good … Can You Take a Look at This Rash?

It’s the classic scenario — you run into your doctor in a restaurant or perhaps at the grocery store and can’t resist the temptation of asking for a quick consult. Resist! Gray writes on HCPLive that, “Doctors are entitled to a personal life, which includes going out in public on occasion ... Just like patients, doctors don’t want to work when they are off the clock.”

Doctor Visit

10. Can You Just Do This as a Tiny Favor?

Don’t ask doctors for things you know cross the line, from taking a quick look at the (uninsured) friend who drove you to the appointment to providing a letter to your employer that’s less than honest. Gray writes on HCPLive: “Patients need to realize that doctors are not above the laws of the land — or the laws of insurance — and stop asking for special treatment.”

Talking with Doctor
SDI Productions/istockphoto

11. Before You Go, Can I Just Tell You…?

Your appointment is almost over, and you suddenly find the courage to bring up a major concern. That’s referred to, Gray writes on HCPLive, as “the doorknob question.” And it drives physicians crazy: “Patients should always bring up their most pressing concerns first to ensure that they receive adequate time and attention.”

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Talking with Doctor

12. Isn’t Dr. Smith a Jerk?

If you had a bad experience with another healthcare provider, don’t expect to be validated. In an examination of the doctor-patient relationship on MDLinx, a site designed to connect both healthcare professionals and patients to the latest in medical research, the phrase “Dr. Jones is a real moron” is used as an example of something a doctor should never say. Bad-mouthing another doctor, particularly when not privy to all the facts, is a definite no-no, so don’t put your doctor in that position.

FG Trade/istockphoto

13. Whatever You Think Is Best…

You want to respect a doctor’s opinion, but don’t give up your own voice, especially as you age. A feature on the patient-physician relationship published by AARP noted that poor communication can have a negative impact. Maysel Kemp White, Ph.D., of the American Academy of Communication in Healthcare, was quoted as saying, “Research shows very clearly that when patients are actively involved in their decision making, and their opinions and perspectives are incorporated into a health care plan, there are much better outcomes.” 

Work from home

14. I Don’t Remember When I First Called About That…

The timeframe of a medical concern is important. You may have to keep in touch with several medical providers, from your primary-care doctor to specialists, as well as insurance representatives, regarding the same issue. The Patient Advocate Foundation, which has been “solving insurance and healthcare access issues since 1996," offers an Education Resource Library filled with references such as the Communication Log which provides a handy way to track what might otherwise seem like an endless blur of phone calls. 

Doctor looking at xray

15. Will That Definitely Take Care of This?

Doctors are medical professionals whose work is rooted in science, but they also draw on their own observations and experience. Still, they cannot guarantee any outcome, so don’t ask for one. Dr. Carol Tanksley, a veteran medical doctor who’s also a doctor of ministry, author and life coach, has noted, “Science and experience can project what a typical outcome of a surgery, medication, or other treatment may be. But it’s just that: typical. No doctor can guarantee that you will respond in a ‘typical’ way.” That means, she adds, you need to ask your doctor to discuss the pros and cons so you can make an informed decision about any procedure or course of treatment.  


16. Can I Get That for Free?

In addition to addressing the spiritual aspects of care, Tanksley also addresses the practical — don’t put your doctor in an awkward position by asking them “to give you something for nothing.” She suggests patients “play by the rules” in every way he or she can: “If you have health insurance, know the limitations of your policy. It’s fine to ask for extras — medication samples, filling out paperwork, etc. — but don’t demand them. Remember: If your doctor can’t make a profit, they can’t stay in business to take care of you.” 


17. You’re the Sixth Doctor I’m Seeing About This…

Doctors need to feel you are not wasting their time. In a survey of things not to do at a doctor’s office, the health-themed media franchise Eat This, Not That! noted on its website that “A second opinion is great. A fifth, not so much.” Quoted is Orly Avitzur, M.D., who wrote in “Consumer Reports” about second opinions: “I encourage my own patients to seek them out when faced with a difficult diagnosis or decision, and I’ve provided them as well. But there’s a limit. A recent patient was paralyzed by indecision after seeking several medical opinions (I was number seven), all with slightly different recommendations. Medicine frequently involves judgment calls, and sooner or later you'll have to trust one of them.”

Baby at Doctor
SDI Productions/istockphoto

18. I’m Sorry, but I Had to Bring the Baby…

Time with the doctor needs to be maximized; a squirming child in the examination room during an adult patient’s visit is not conducive to a good result. Amir G. Nasseri, M.D., of Santa Ana, California, has been quoted by Eat This, Not That! on that situation: “It is very understandable that arranging childcare can be a challenge, but if you bring your small child with you to the doctor’s office you are doing yourself a disservice. Fussing, crying, and the general needs of a small child take away the crucial attention of the physician as well as the patient. The child can be a distraction to both of you and the physician may not be able to think as clearly during this crucial visit, and you will not be able to focus on and remember the instructions that the physician gave you.”  

Doctor filling out RX prescription

19. I Need You to Prescribe This…

We are bombarded by lengthy commercials and magazine ads for all kinds of medications. And if one sounds ideal for you, feel free to ask your doctor about it — but never demand it, says Dr. Lisa Van Allen, an executive coach and spiritual director who has written about chronic pain. As she says, “Don’t ask for a specific pain medication, it will make you look like you are drug seeking. Ask if he/she thinks that medication would be good for your situation.”  

Exam Room

20. Um, Sorry, I Was Just Looking at That…

Sure, you are there waiting for your doctor to enter the exam room, and you begin to wonder what exactly that gadget does. Do not touch any medical device in case you break it. Joshua Mansour, M.D., a board-certified hematologist and oncologist quoted on the Eat This, Not That! website, says that damaged equipment can be difficult to replace and may delay the care of other patients: “Although you may be interested in the instrument while you wait, try to avoid playing with them and ask your doctor about whichever one interests you. We are many times happy to show them to you and explain how they work.”

Using phone at dentist

21. I’ll Just Be a Minute…

Doctors deserve simple courtesy, just like anyone else. Cell phones are discouraged as a rule, but never ask a doctor to wait as you finish a call, according to a post on the Eat This, Not That! website. Craig Tifford, M.D., a Yale Medicine orthopedic surgeon, is quoted on the topic: “Avoid talking on your cell phone or having it ring at any point during the encounter — from the second you walk in the door until the time you exit the office. It is very frustrating and disruptive on a busy clinic day when a physician walks into an exam room and their patient is talking on the phone. The scenario becomes even more intolerable when they put their finger or hand up to signal that they will only be a minute and worst of all, when the phone rings during the visit and they actually answer the call!” Silence that phone … Does that even need to be said? We guess so.