20 Questions You Should Be Asking Your Doctor But Aren't
20 Questions You Should Be Asking Your Doctor But Aren't
Navigating a doctor's visit can be tricky. But the way you go about it can make a huge difference in the quality of your care. The best medical care comes from doctor-patient relationships that thrive off of open communication.
But doctors are really busy - and they're not always the best at listening. When many doctors won't listen to patients for more than 11 seconds, how can you make sure you're being heard? Doctors are technically working for you. But it's also up to you to advocate for yourself and get the best medical care. Part of making the most of your visit is speaking up and being as communicative as you can with your doctor. That means not keeping secrets from them. Be open, honest, and inquisitive.
But another huge part of this is simply asking the right questions. Don't assume that your doctor is volunteering all the information you might want to know. Again, doctors are busy! They already know so much about medicine that they may not think to fill you in on all of the nitty gritty details. But those are details you probably want to know.
It can be difficult to know which questions you need to ask, so we did the research for you. We pored over the suggestions of the Cleveland Clinic and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and these are the questions you might not think to ask your doctor but really should.
What is this test for?
Before you go in for any kind of medical test or examination, it's your right to know what the test being performed is for. If the test is unnecessary, you can opt to forego it. But some tests can actually save your life. If the test will provide helpful information to you and your doctor, you should be informed about what that information is so that you can know what to ask once you receive the results.
Are there any other treatment options?
Many times, there are multiple options for treating the same medical condition. Your doctor probably has some sort of reasoning as to why they selected the treatment plan they did - but they could have also selected one simply because it's the most common. Some treatment options may work better for you or fit more easily within your budget. Knowing what these options even are is a good place to start.
Are there any potential complications I should know about?
This is a good question to ask when you're getting any kind of procedure done, even if it's routine or small. There could be complications to watch out for, like an allergy to an anesthetic or health effects of a medication. Invasive procedures and tests tend to have more complications than non-invasive ones. You may choose to go forward with the same treatment plan regardless of any risks of complications; but it's best to be informed and know what to expect.
What are the side effects of this medication?
Medications almost always have some side effects. Your doctor may not volunteer this information at first. But just because your doctor doesn't warn you about the side effects doesn't mean there aren't any. You should always ask! A side effect that might not bother one person might be a deal-breaker for another.
Why is this medication the best choice for me?
Speaking of medications with side effects - there is often more than one option for which drug to prescribe. Out of all the options available, there's likely a reason your doctor chose one particular medication. Ask about this thought process so you can better understand your treatment and ask about other options if necessary.
What are the next steps?
It's never a bad idea to ask what's coming. That way, you can be prepared for whatever steps your doctor has in mind for future treatment.
Are there any symptoms I should look out for?
Depending on your family and medical histories, you may be at greater risk for certain diseases and conditions than others. Catching these diseases quickly could really improve your chances of successful treatment. It can't hurt to look out for symptoms early!
Is this covered under my insurance?
Your doctor might not know the answer to this question, but it's worth an ask. Insurance can be tricky to navigate. Oftentimes, the front desk of a doctor's office will help patients to figure out whether a certain treatment or medication is covered.
How did you arrive at my diagnosis?
Knowing the reasoning behind a diagnosis can really help you to understand what's going on in terms of your health. It can also help prevent a misdiagnosis (they're more common than you might think). While you might not know yet what specific questions to ask about your diagnosis, this is a good place to start. What symptoms did your doctor notice? What tests helped inform his or her decision?
How will this diagnosis affect my life?
Some conditions are fairly non-disruptive to your life while others may require more of an adjustment. You may, for example, need to pay more attention to your diet or prioritize things like sleep to get the most from your treatment. Additionally, receiving a diagnosis and treatment plan might actually result in some large improvements to your everyday life. Symptoms that previously went untreated might finally go away.
Are there other possible reasons for my symptoms?
Some diagnoses aren't concrete - meaning that they're more like hypotheses about what's going on than absolute answers. Your doctor may forget to tell you about these alternative possibilities. But the more information you can get, the better!
How accurate is this test?
Some medical tests are more accurate than others. Each test you undergo should be beneficial and informative for you. Get all the information you can. Knowing how accurate a test is can help you interpret the results! Plus, additional tests might be necessary to confirm your diagnosis.
When will I receive my test results?
You should also ask how you will be notified. The office may call you, email you, or use an online portal.
What are the benefits and risks of this treatment?
Before you start any treatment plan, you should know two things: Why you're doing it and what risks to consider. Both of these factors could play into whether or not you choose to move forward with the plan your doctor devised.
What should I expect?
You don't want to be caught by surprise. To best prepare for any procedure or treatment plan, make sure you ask your doctor exactly what you should expect.
Is there anything I should be careful to avoid during treatment?
Your doctor probably should tell you this information already. But just in case they forgot (doctors are human, and they make mistakes, too!), ask if there's anything you need to avoid during treatment. You may need to steer clear of certain foods that may interact with your medication. You may need to avoid certain over-the-counter medications.
Does alcohol interfere with this medication?
We know it's tempting to lie about your drinking habits to your doctor - but you really shouldn't keep this secret. Many medications could become dangerous if you drink alcohol while you're taking them. If drinking alcohol is a part of your lifestyle, make sure it is still safe to drink while you're taking these medications.
What do I do if I miss a dose of my medication?
It's not ideal, of course. But life happens! Maybe you left your pill bottle at home or slept in later than usual. Missing a scheduled dosage could be totally benign, or it could require some actions on your part to keep the medication working. These expectations are different for each medication. Ask your doctor what you would do in this scenario so that you're prepared if you slip up.
Where can I get a second opinion?
Your doctor won't be offended! It's never a bad idea to seek additional medical advice, especially if you're making an important decision such as starting a new medication or treatment plan. A different doctor may give you a different potential diagnosis. Medications can have side effects that make an impact on your life. Treatment plans may require that you alter your lifestyle and change your habits. These decisions are significant; getting a second opinion can help you ensure you're making the right choices.
What might this symptom mean?
Even if it seems like something small, you should always tell your doctor when something's bothering you. Are you concerned about a backache? Are you always tired and you're not sure why? Even though you may not require immediate medical attention, it's still worth speaking up. Keeping secrets from your doctor can actually be dangerous.