07 May 2015
Questions to Ask Your Doctor

As medical patients, we tend to trust our primary care physicians. Your physician is the best source for useful information, and most are happy to discuss their recommendations with you.

However, some people are uncomfortable asking questions. Sitting there in a gown, it’s kind of hard to carry on a useful exchange with that cold draft blowing up your back. But asking questions and making sure you get the right answers are vital to your health.

The health care provider is highly trained and has a medical degree, but regardless of how much your doctor knows about you, you know more.

You know your history, your tolerance for pain, your medical sensitivities. You know you better than anyone. Furthermore, you have opinions. You want options.

Good doctors want good patients – people who take a proactive interest in their own good health, who want to learn more about a specific ailment, who will stick to a medical regimen to improve their health. That’s a good patient. The best patients ask questions, and may even occasionally disagree with a physician’s recommendation for personal reasons. Working with the doctor, they can then agree on a treatment that will work for them.

Instead of blindly following doctor’s orders, ask questions. You expect complete information when you buy a new car or a computer. Shouldn’t you ask questions as the consumer of medical services?

What to Ask Your Doctor

A doctor who answers a question with, “Just do it. I’m the doctor” may not be the right physician for an engaged, knowledgeable patient. So ask all the questions you have and get the answers you need. When you visit your doctor, come with questions and don’t leave without answers you can understand. It may help to prepare a written list beforehand so you don’t forget what you intended to ask.

Ask about the cause of the disease or ailment for which you’re seeking treatment. Is there a way to avoid it happening again?

Why do I need this test? Many doctors urge patients to undergo various tests to identify the ailment. However some doctors, concerned about malpractice lawsuits, order tests that may not be necessary. Ask why your doctor is drawing blood. Ask what they are testing.

What are the side effects of this medication or procedure? Almost all medications have side effects – some more unpleasant than others. Ask your prescriber to explain all side effects, including those that warn the patient to stop taking the medication.

What are the alternative treatments and how effective are these alternatives? If you have lower back pain, your doctor may prescribe a mild muscle relaxant that makes you drowsy. Maybe some simple exercises, or a trip to the chiropractor, can achieve the same results without the unwanted side effects.

Will this medication interact with my current medications? This is especially important to ask if you’re seeing more than one prescribing physician. The orthopedic specialist may have you on meds that don’t mix well with the medication being prescribed by your family doctor. Make sure medical care providers know about all of the medications you’re taking, including over-the-counter drugs and vitamin supplements.

What can I expect from this ailment? How long does this condition usually last? When can I get this cast off? When should I expect to see positive results from the treatment? Know what’s ahead by asking your doctor the right questions.

Be sure to ask your doctor what to do if your symptoms get worse instead of better. Once you leave the doctor’s office, track your progress. If you feel better, chances are the meds or exercise program is working. If you feel worse, call your doctor. Individuals react differently to medications, and there’s always the possibility that you were misdiagnosed, or had an underlying problem that wasn’t detected at the office visit. Don’t suffer in silence. Be a strong advocate for your own good health.

Think of your doctor as an excellent source of information – the information you need to make the best medical decisions for your condition, past medical history, and preferences.


The information provided is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice.



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