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10 Questions to Ask Your Doctor

Date: April 1, 2017      Publication: Bottom Line Health      Source:  Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Center for Advancing Health and Mental Health Family Medicine.      Print:

Asking the right questions is one of the best ways to make sure that you get the most out of a doctor appointment. What questions should you ask? If you have an undiagnosed problem (or are experiencing a flare-up of a known condition), consider the following examples… 

1. What do you think is going on, and how much do I need to worry? Even if it’s too early for a definitive diagnosis, it’s good to get your doctor’s first impressions. Getting your doctor’s impressions on the seriousness also helps ease the anxiety of not knowing.

2. Will the test you’re recommending affect my treatment? If test results won’t change a diagnosis or treatment plan, they may belong in an “optional” category.

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3. When will I get the results? Instead of just waiting (and worrying), ask when you’ll get results, how you’ll be contacted, whether you can access the results through the patient portal, etc. Call if you don’t hear anything by the expected date, and ask for a copy of your results.

4. What is your experience with this medication? If a drug is being prescribed, it also helps to discuss the benefits (and downsides) of a newer medication versus an older, less expensive drug.

5. How much will this test (or drug) cost? Your insurance might not pay for that state-of-the-art test or the newest drug. Find out before you commit.

6. Do I need all these drugs I’m takingand can I lower any of the doses? Prescriptions tend to multiply over time, so try to review all of your medications every time you see your doctor.

7. Should I do any home-testing between visits? Over-the-counter technology now allows patients to track many of their signs and symptoms—such as blood pressure and blood sugar—at home.

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8. What can I do for myself? Lifestyle changes—what you eat, how much you sleep, whether or not you exercise, etc.—can augment just about every treatment you’re likely to get. Many doctors now have a health psychologist in their offices to discuss such lifestyle changes and/or can make a referral to a health coach or behavioral specialist.

9. What else should I know that I haven’t thought to ask? Asking an open-ended question is a good way to wrap up details shared during an office visit (including the use of medications).

10. How should I contact your office with questions? If you do not use one already, ask your physician if his/her electronic health record system has a patient portal that can be used for communication. Some offices also take questions via phone calls and/or e-mail, but more and more favor use of a patient portal.

Sources: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Center for Advancing Health and Mental Health Family Medicine.