Your patients should be able to talk to you about anything. Patients know they have doctor-patient privilege in your office, but that doesn’t make embarrassing conversations any easier. Help your patients feel at ease talking to you about awkward health concerns.
Legally you are bound to maintain your patients’ privacy about health concerns, diagnoses, and treatments. You can’t help your patients effectively if they aren’t willing to talk openly about all of their medical concerns.
There are no stupid questions. Assure your patients that there is no such thing as a stupid question when it comes to personal health. You are a medical expert, but you shouldn’t expect your patients to understand or use complex medical terminology. Help your patients feel confident that you won’t be judgmental if they ask questions.
Active listening. Don’t assume you understand your patient’s underlying concerns. Allow time for your patient to get out their questions or explanation without interrupting. Listen to what they’re asking and repeat back what you hear them say. You can ask follow-up questions to dig deeper and better understand their concerns.
Offer resources. You can help establish trust and curb embarrassment by providing additional resources. Print out information sheets or suggest trusted online resources where your patients can learn more on their own. Learning more about their conditions will help your patients feel more confident during visits.
Maintain yearly visits. You can help build trust by seeing your patients at least once a year for well-checks. Seeing your patients regularly can help make them feel more comfortable when embarrassing topics come up. Have your office staff schedule annual appointment reminders for well-checks.
Address the topic. Sometimes embarrassment is like an elephant in the room. Just come out and acknowledge that you know the topic can be an awkward one to discuss. Let your patient know that they aren’t alone, and other patients face the same problems.
Start small. Usually, your patients have to give a reason for their visit when scheduling an appointment. You likely already know what they want to discuss, but starting with small talk can help break the ice. Topics like work, family, and hobbies can help your patient open up and get more comfortable.
Recommend a specialist. Your patient may have a concern that you aren’t familiar with. You can recommend that they see a doctor that specializes in that area of medicine. Sometimes it’s easier for your patient to talk to someone with vast knowledge in their area of concern.
Embarrassing health topics
You can prepare for appointments by anticipating awkward topics. Have tips and recommendations on hand, so you’re prepared for any patient in need. Topics that are embarrassing for patients may include:
Tips for patients
If you’re planning to visit your doctor about an embarrassing health concern, you can get prepared ahead of time.
Make notes. Write down the problems you’re having in detail. Be descriptive and include how you feel. This exercise will help you remember any important questions or details on the day of your appointment.
Practice. If you struggle to talk about your concerns out loud, practice at home. Hearing the words out loud while you’re alone may help you feel more comfortable talking to your doctor. If you have a friend or family member you can trust, talk to them, too. They may be able to help you come up with important questions to ask your doctor.
Be direct. Even if you’re embarrassed, it’s important to speak very specifically. Don’t try to be vague or make your doctor guess what you’re saying. Use proper medical terms when you can, and don’t hold back any information or questions out of embarrassment. Your doctor can ask follow-up questions to clarify anything they don’t understand.
Address your concerns. It’s easy to let embarrassing health issues continue because you don’t want to talk about them. Don’t ignore problems if they impact your quality of life. Many health concerns are easy to fix if you can just get the conversation started.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Cedars Sinai: "How to Address Uncomfortable Topics With Your Doctor."
UW Medicine: "How to Talk to Your Doctor About Awkward Health Topics."
Yale School of Medicine: "Taking the Embarrassment Out of Health Problems."
Top How Do You Deal With Embarrassed Patients Related Articles
What Questions Should I Ask My Doctor About Breast Cancer?A diagnosis of breast cancer can be overwhelming, so it's important to write down all your questions before meeting with your doctor.
13 Lies You Tell Your DoctorAre you honest with your doctor? You should be, if you want to stay healthy. Check out WebMD's slide show for the 13 lies you're most likely to tell your doctor.
How Do Doctors Test for Testicular Cancer?Diagnosing testicular cancer requires a thorough history and physical examination along with diagnostic testing. A diagnostic test can confirm or eliminate disease presence, monitor the disease progress or evaluate if the disease has spread to other parts of the body.
How Does a Doctor Diagnose Prostate Cancer?The prostate gland or prostate is a part of the male reproductive system. It is a small (almost walnut-sized) gland located just below the bladder and in front of the rectum (the last part of the large bowel), surrounding the urethra (the tube carrying urine out of the bladder). The prostate has two main functions: producing and storing fluid that helps make semen and regulating bladder control.
Why Does Your Doctor Do That?Your physical exam is when you need your doctor's expert help. Your health depends on it. Learn how doctors spot high blood pressure, STIs, various cancers, and other signs of poor health. What questions should you ask your doctor? Find out here.
Sexual Problems in MenMale sexual dysfunction can be caused by physical or psychological problems. Common sexual problems in men include erectile dysfunction (impotence or ED), premature ejaculation, and loss of libido. Treatment for sexual dysfunction in men may involve medication, hormone therapy, psychological therapy, and the use of mechanical aids.
Sexual Problems (Sex) in WomenSexual dysfunction refers to a problem that arises during any phase of the sexual response cycle, preventing an individual or couple from experiencing sexual satisfaction. Physical, medical, and psychological conditions may affect sexual functioning, resulting in inhibited sexual desire, inability to become aroused, lack of orgasm, and painful intercourse. Treating the underlying physical and psychological problems usually resolves most female sexual problems.
Sexual HealthSexual health information including birth control, impotence, herpes, sexually transmitted diseases, staying healthy, women's sexual health concerns, and men's sexual health concerns. Learn about the most common sexual conditions affecting men and women.
What Kind of Doctor Do I Need? Find a SpecialistDo I need my primary care doctor or should I see a specialist? Finding the right doctor is daunting. We make it easier, explaining medical specializations like rheumatology, endocrinology, oncology, and more.
When Should You Go to the Doctor for Hemorrhoids?If you're dealing with painful or bleeding hemorrhoids, you're not alone. About one in 20 Americans have hemorrhoids, and that includes half of all adults over age 50.