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June 17, 2014 06:00 PM

Understanding The Doctor's Advice

Have you ever gone to the doctor's office for a medical condition, but didn't fully understand the information your provider gave you? If so, you are not alone. Nearly one in three Americans struggle to understand health information.

When Susan Hurd brings her kids to the doctor's office, she wants to get as much out of each appointment as possible.

"Sometimes as a mom with three small kids, you get a little bit overwhelmed with what's being said," Hurd said.

Surveys show that even college-educated patients can have difficulty understanding health information from their doctors.

"If you don't understand what we're wanting, then obviously we often don't have as good of follow-through. We can't figure out why things aren't improving the way the physician thought they would," Sanford Pediatrician Dr. Aaron Zylstra said.

Dr. Aaron Zylstra says the number one thing you can do is ask your doctor questions.

"Some people understand differently than others, and other people don't understand something I really thought they understood," Zylstra said.

Along with not understanding medical information, around 80 percent of patients forget what their providers tell them as soon as they leave the office.

"If you come in with a specific illness, hopefully we can get you a handout or a website or something that you can go back and refer to and say, 'What did Dr. Z. say about this?'" Zylstra said.

Zylstra says if you don't get reference materials, don't be afraid to ask for them.

"We're happy to write it out in a plan -- either hand-written for some people or on the computer and have it printed out," Zylstra said.

Hurd also recommends getting to know your doctor. That way you'll feel more comfortable asking questions, and therefore, understanding information.

"You want to make sure that you are understanding everything, so they are getting the best care they can," Hurd said.

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