It happens to everyone: you leave the doctor’s office and realize there’s something you forgot to ask.
It’s your health we’re talking about here, so go ahead and take a proactive role in the discussion. Asking questions is one of the best ways to make sure you and your doctor are on the same page.
Before you go:
Think about why you made the doctor appointment, and what you hope to get out of it. Do you want to talk about a change in your health? Adjust a medication? Talk about treatment options?
If you’re dealing with a complex health issue, consider bringing along someone you trust to help listen and take notes. The same goes for older patients, who might be managing multiple conditions.
Any doctor visit:
• What’s my diagnosis? What does it mean?
• What are my treatment options?
• Are there symptoms I should watch for that would require urgent care?
• What’s the best way to contact you if my symptoms change or worsen?
• Do I need a follow-up visit? What should I do before my next appointment?
Tip: If your appointment ends and you still have unanswered questions, see if you can get in touch by phone or email, or schedule a follow-up visit.
Questions to ask your doctor if you’re prescribed medication:
• What’s the medication for? What does it do?
• How should I take it? How long should I take it for?
• Are there any side effects?
• Could it interact with other medications I take?
• Do I need to change my diet or habits while I’m taking it?
• Will I be able to tell if it’s working or not?
Tip: Save time by using a mail-order delivery service, or by ordering medications in a three-month supply.
Questions to ask your doctor if you need labs or imaging tests:
• What’s the test for?
• What will the results tell you?
• Will the test help me make decisions about my care?
• How should I prepare?
• How and when can I get the results?
Tip: Remember that prices vary widely, so search for a lower-cost lab or imaging center.
Questions to ask your doctor if you need a procedure or surgery:
• Why do I need this procedure?
• What outcome do you expect?
• Are there other treatments available?
• Do I need to do it now, or can it wait?
• What are the risks of not getting the procedure?
Tip: Whether or not to get surgery is a big decision! If you’re still unsure after talking to your doctor, seek a second opinion.
If you Googled your symptoms (we all do it, right?):
• I looked up my symptoms online, but what do you think?
• Is there an online resource you’d recommend if I want to read more about my condition?
Tip: Not all online health forums are reliable, and they often focus only on the most extreme cases. Dr. Google isn’t a licensed physician, so be sure you’re open to what your real doctor has to say.