7 Questions You Should Be Asking Your Doctor

November 8, 2011  |  
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When you walk into your doctor’s office, either for a routine check-up or unplanned illness, it’s important that you are asking the right questions.  You are your own advocate.  Doctors will do all they can to inform you and teach you about your condition, but you have to be prepared to speak up and ask a few questions of your own.  Take a look at these 7 questions you probably are not asking, and be sure to address them during your next visit.


1. What is your experience like?

Especially when scheduling a surgery or procedure, it is important to ask the surgeon or physician what their background is in medicine.  Obviously the more experience they have conducting that specific procedure, the better they will be at it.  Especially for a routine procedure that is estimated to have little or no precautions, you want to be sure the doctor performs it regularly.  However, if the procedure is a little less common, then a less experienced doctor might have to do.  However, be sure you are comfortable with that person and trust their judgment.  Getting a second opinion is very common and should almost always be explored.  It is also appropriate to ask about their schooling, although that can play a small part in the large scheme of things.  Experience is key, and it’s your job to ask the right questions.

2. When can I schedule the procedure?

According to a study out of Duke University, patients report a higher rate of discomfort from a surgical procedure when performed late in the afternoon (between 3-5pm).  This could be due to a patient’s stress from the morning, awaiting their procedure, or because most surgeries require the patient to fast the day of the operation, therefore their body might be fatigued. Whatever the reason, try to schedule your procedure for the morning for the best chance of as little discomfort as possible.

3.  Is there anything else that this could be?

Doctors are well educated and go through many examinations, interviews and trial tests before you even see them working in an office.  However, as skilled and smart as they are, sometimes our bodies are still a mystery.  Doctors study ailments and procedures that have been performed in the past, and usually find your solution in those.  However, some issues may not be concluded yet and therefore your specific sickness or health problem may not be widespread enough or concretely conclusive.  In this case, be upfront with your doctor if your diagnosis seems uncertain and you want to explore other options.  It is completely normal to ask your doctor if your ailment could be anything else and what the treatment would be like.  It’s important to be knowledgeable in what is going on with your body, because only you know when something doesn’t seem quite right, and if you need treatment now. 


4.  If I get sick, will you see me in the hospital?

These days, doctors have many patients on their plate and are not available to be with all of them when they are wanted.  Knowing this, most doctors get to know physicians and surgeons in the area, and might recommend a specific one to you if they cannot be present.  It is 100% smart and appropriate to ask your normal physician who will be seeing you in case they are not around, and what their roles will be in your care.  Your doctor does want the best for you, and will recommend the top performers for your needs, but realize that they have several other patients that require their attention as well.

5. Can I follow up with you by phone if I have any additional questions?

Whether it’s the sterile smell or the stark white walls, it’s easy to get flustered in the exam room and forget to ask relevant and important questions.  Before your appointment, jot down some questions you don’t want to forget to ask, and have a notepad handy during your visit to take notes.  The doctor will likely be impressed and encouraged to explain further, when you seem genuinely interested and eager to learn.  Also, be sure to ask your doctor if it is ok to call him or her with any additional questions if you do happen to think of a question after the appointment.  Most often they will be happy to speak with you, but often have very busy schedules and may not be able to give you a timely answer.

6. Do you have written information about my condition that I can read?

When you leave the doctor do you ever feel confused or uncomfortable about what is going on in your body?  Do you want to know more, but don’t want to wait until your next appointment to get the facts?  To prevent this uneasy feeling, ask your doctor during your appointment if there are any good websites or support groups he or she might recommend for further information.  Between appointments, it’s normal to feel confused and helpless when you don’t know what you should be doing, on a daily basis, for your health.  The Internet is a big place that can easily suck you in to false information and fake guidance.  Ask for reputable sources and rest assured that you are being pro-active with your heath every day.


7. What are my other options?

Patients need to know that they have the right to accept, decline or ask for modifications to what their physician may be suggesting. That’s what being an engaged and empowered patient is all about. You have the right to express your concerns, your fears, and your doubts. Most importantly, know that you have the right to seek an opinion from another physician.  Although doctors all have similar training, their practice might lean on the more conservative and cautious side, or more open, explorative side of diagnosis and treatment. Every one is different, even doctors.  For this reason, it is smart to ask for a second opinion, even if you think your doctor is doing the right thing.  If you only hear one opinion, it’s easy to go along with it because you don’t know any better… heck we aren’t the doctor!  Get a recommendation from a friend or co-worker and make an appointment with their physician.  When it comes to your health, its better to be safe and informed, than sorry and clueless.

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