It sounds like the kind of riddle-speak reserved for intense feature-length dramas (or maybe Lost) — but it’s exactly the kind of advice you need to hear before you visit your doctor.
It’s a strange phenomenon. We’ll ask 10 questions before we order dinner at a restaurant, 20 or more before we settle on which cell phone to choose — but when it comes to our health, we’re stumped.
Here’s a good example from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ):
So — what kinds of questions do you need to ask next time you’re the one sitting on the exam table? The AHRQ website has a tool you can use to build a list based on your medical needs. They break it down into categories like ‘Did your clinician give you a prescription?’ and ‘Are you choosing a health plan?’ and then provide lists of questions you may want to ask. You can select the questions you want to ask and print your personalized list to take to your next appointment.
Questions are the answer because you are the most important part of your healthcare team. You know yourself better than any doctor, nurse, technician, or clinician ever could — so it’s vitally important you understand what’s going on, what’s being asked of you (in terms of a treatment plan, for example) — and why.
AHRQ suggests reviewing the following points as you prepare for an appointment with your doctor:
- Give Information – tell your clinician about your health history, symptoms, medications and any allergies you have.
- Get Information – ask questions, take notes — don’t be shy about asking your clinician to repeat him or herself.
- Follow Up – call if you think of more questions, experience side effects, or if your symptoms get worse. If your doctor asked you to make a follow-up appointment for tests or lab work, take the time to schedule and complete them.
- Understand Your Diagnosis – seek out more information from trusted sources (WebMD, Healthline, or Mayo Clinic for example).
- Choose Quality Care – talk to your clinician about what is best for you:
- Getting the services you need when you need them.
- Using the right test or procedure to achieve the best possible results.
For more information, check out AHRQ’s Quick Tips – When Talking to Your Doctor.