Asking Your Doctor Questions
One of the most important things you can do during a doctor’s appointment is to ask questions. Though many people have trouble speaking up or are afraid of questioning their doctor’s authority, it’s important that conversations about your health be a two-way dialogue between you and your clinician. By asking questions, you can get vital information on:
- What tests you will need
- What your diagnosis means
- What your treatment options are
- What steps you will need to take to make sure you or your loved one gets better
It may help to write down your questions ahead of time and bring them with you to the appointment and to have a friend or family member come with you to help take notes and remember what the doctor says.
Asking questions is important at every stage of your health care, whether during a routine check-up or during a hospital stay. For more detailed advice on asking questions about tests, your diagnosis and your treatment, read:
- Talking about medical tests
- Should I get a second opinion?
- What is watchful waiting?
- Handling side effects
If you feel unsatisfied with your interaction with your doctor, you can talk it out or switch doctors, if possible. Good communication between you and your health care providers is essential.
Sample Questions to Ask Your Health Care Team
There are several online resources with sample questions to ask your doctor and information on your rights and responsibilities as a patient. We suggest the following:
- The Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality (AHRQ) presents a video with Dr. Carolyn Clancy that explains how to ask questions when you visit a clinician. AHRQ also suggests 10 Questions You Should Know and tips for communicating with your clinicians. AHRQ has videos from patients and clinicians discussing how important it is to ask questions and how it can change the care that you receive.
- American Cancer Society offers tips that can help make it easier to talk with your doctor and other members of your health care team.
- Consumer Reports article How to Talk to Your Doctor provides information on how to frame your health concerns and questions to ask at your visit.
- Geisinger Medical Center provides a list of your rights and responsibilities as a patient. Your hospital may also have a list like this on their website.
- MedlinePlus has information on patient rights, responsibilities and expectations.
- MedicineNet.com provides sample questions to ask your doctor during a visit.
Asking questions is especially important after a doctor has made a diagnosis and you are developing a treatment plan. These websites offer information on treatment plans:
- The Agency for Health Care Research and Quality (AHRQ) provides patient and consumer information on making treatment decisions and developing a treatment plan with your care team.
- About.com offers more common questions to discuss with your doctor for any treatment plan. Although this post focuses on osteoarthritis, there is also some good general information about working with your doctor on a treatment plan.
- The Heart Failure Society of America has a guide for self-care that includes helpful information on developing a treatment plan.
- Mayo Clinic has information on how to partner with your doctor on your treatment plan for cancer.
- PBS offers basic information on creating a cancer care plan.
Resources reviewed June 2013
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One of the most important things you can do during a doctor’s appointment is to ask questions. Here’s advice on what to ask and how.
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