My HEalth Counts! Partnering with Your Doctor

More Questions to Ask the Doctor

Most doctors are pressed for time these days and patients feel like they don't have time to really talk and ask their doctors questions. Rushed doctor visits can leave people with lingering concerns about their treatments or medications, or not having fully explained their symptoms.

You can improve your care by learning more about your conditions—asking questions, sharing your medical history and making sure you understand your doctor's recommendations, and taking the necessary steps to feel better sooner.

Make Sure You Get What You Need

  • Think about what you want to talk about before your doctor's appointment.
  • Bring up the most important questions at the beginning of your appointment. Don't wait until the end of the appointment—the doctor may not have time to get to the issues that are important to you.
  • Bring a trusted family member or friend with you to listen, ask questions and remind you of things you wanted to talk about.
  • If your doctor's office uses a computer to record medical information and notes from the visit (electronic medical record), ask if you can have a copy of the summary.
  • If your doctor is using too many medical words that you don't understand, ask, “Could you put that in plain language, please?”
  • If you are not sure whether you will follow through with your doctor's directions, tell your doctor about your concerns and ask for time to think it over.

Questions about the agenda & goals for your appointment:

  • I’d like to tell you about what I would like to accomplish today.
  • What do you think we need to cover today?

Questions about treatment:

  • Are there any alternatives or options?
  • What are the side effects?
  • What are the benefits?
  • How confident are you that this will help?
  • How will I know if the treatment is working?
  • When can I expect to see a change?
  • What will I notice?

Questions about the condition:

  • What ideas do you have about what is contributing to my problem?
  • What concerns you the most?
  • What kinds of problems or difficulties
    should I watch out for?

Questions about self-management:

  • What can I do to manage my condition?
  • What might get in the way of my success?
  • What resources/materials might help?
  • What programs or services in my community might be helpful?
  • How can my family/friends help?

Questions you might ask about a specific illness or symptom:

  • What’s wrong with me?
    • What else could it be?
    • Can you draw a picture or show me what is wrong?
    • What causes this kind of problem?
    • Can I give this illness to someone else, and if so, how and for what period of time can Ipass this on?
    • Are there any activities or foods which I should avoid?
    • When can I return to work or school?
    • What is the long-term prognosis of my condition?
    • How can I prevent this from happening again?
    • How will this problem affect me in the future?
    • What will happen if I don't treat my condition right away?
    • What treatment should I follow, including dietary, medical treatment, and lifestyle changes?
    • What are the risks and benefits of the treatment options and the consequences of not treating?
    • When do I need to see the doctor again?
    • Where can I get more information about my condition?
    • Should I return for a follow-up?Until then, what symptoms should I watch for and what should I do if they occur?

Questions you might ask about medications your doctor prescribes:

(Talk to your doctor, healthcare team member or pharmacist):

  • What is the name of the medication?
  • Why do I need this particular medication?
  • What is the medication supposed to do?
  • How does it work?
  • When will it take effect?
  • What effects will I feel when I take the drug?
  • How and when do I take this medication, and how much should I take?
  • How long will I need to take the medication?
  • What are the possible side effects of this medication?
  • What do I do if side effects occur?
  • Are there any tests necessary to monitor the use of the medicine?
  • Is this medication safe to take with other medications and over the counter medications and supplements I am taking?
  • Are there any foods, drinks, other medications or activities I should avoid while I take this medication?
  • How often will I need to get the medication refilled?
  • How will I know if the medication is working?
  • What are the risks of not taking the medication?
  • Is this a brand name or generic name?
  • Is there a generic drug or less expensive medications available for my condition?
  • Are there lifestyle changes I could make that would lessen my dependency on the medication?
  • What if I miss a dose?
  • What if I accidentally take an extra dose?
  • How should I store this medication?
  • Do you have any written materials about this drug?

Questions you might ask about surgery or a procedure:

  • What kind of operation do I need?
  • Why do I need an operation?
  • What are the benefits and risks of the operation?
  • What are the benefits and risks of the operation?
  • How long will it take to recover?
  • When do I check in to the hospital and where?
  • What can I expect to happen before the surgery or procedure?
  • Can you draw a picture or show me what will happen during the procedure?
  • How long will the procedure take?
  • Can my family go with me?
  • What effects will the procedure have on me in the short and long term?
  • What is the doctor's experience in performing the procedure?
  • What medications will be given to me?
  • How long will I have to rest at home after the procedure?
  • Is there an alternative procedure?
  • Are there any treatments I could have instead of an operation?
  • What will happen if I don’t have the procedure?

Questions you might ask about a lab test, an x-ray, or another test:

  • Why is the test necessary?
  • How will the test be done?
  • How accurate will the test be?
  • What will happen if I do not have the test?
  • What are the benefits and risks of the test?
  • Will it hurt? If so is there anything I can do to lessen the pain?
  • Can the doctor perform the test in the office or will I have to go to the hospital or the laboratory?
  • Is there any preparation for the test?
  • What are the side effects of the test?
  • What changes or effects should I report to the doctor?
  • When and how will I receive the results?
  • How long will it take for me to get the results?
  • What should I do if I don’t receive the results?
  • Can I get a copy of the test results?