Ten Questions You Should Ask Your Care Provider

Health Minute

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Communication is key to achieving and maintaining good health, and that includes asking your doctor and care providers a few essential questions, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and QualityOff Site Icon (AHRQ).

Patients may hesitate to ask their doctor and care team questions, either out of fear of offending their physician or worry that they’re taking too much of a provider’s time, according to the AHRQ. But, asking questions can be a way for patients to educate themselves and make better decisions about their care.

If patients worry about the limited time they sometimes have during their appointment, the AHRQ suggests that patients list their concerns ahead of time, or make note of the following simple questions to ask:

  • What is the test for?
  • How many times have you done this procedure?
  • When will I get the results?
  • Why do I need this treatment?
  • Are there any alternatives?
  • What are the possible complications?
  • Which hospital is best for my needs?
  • How do you spell the name of that drug?
  • Are there any side effects?
  • Will this medicine interact with medicines that I'm already taking?

Asking questions opens an important discussion between a provider and patient about treatment options, leading to better outcomes, according to the AHRQ.

Why Asking Questions is Important 

Care providers encourage their patients to ask questions, as it builds the health care relationship, and lets doctors and care teams know what things matter to the patient most, according to the American Academy of Family PhysiciansOff Site Icon (AAFP). Providers urge patients to ask for clarification when they need it so they fully understand the course of treatment that’s agreed upon.

When patients don’t ask questions, a provider might incorrectly assume that the patient understands their condition, diagnosis, and treatment options, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH).

It’s important for patients to fully understand the details of their treatment as they are ultimately responsible for following through with it, such as taking medications as prescribed, according to the NIH. Asking questions helps the patient understand how their health condition affects their day-to-day life, and what activities they should increase or avoid to prevent the problem from getting worse.

Making Sure That You Understand Medical Instructions  

It’s easy for anyone to be unclear on certain medical instructions, or to forget something a doctor or care provider has said. Patients should always feel free to call the doctor’s office after their appointment to ask additional questions, according to the NIH. Most often, a nurse or office staff member can relay a question to the doctor or a care provider on the patient’s behalf and call them back with the information they requested.

When it comes to subjects like diagnosis, medications, and tests, patients should make their questions even more specific, according to the NIH. Some patients take notes during discussions with their care team and repeat their doctor’s statements to ensure that they clearly understand the subject matter, according to the NIH. It’s also helpful to request supporting literature or visual aids.

According to the NIH, these are some questions a patient may ask about the specifics of their care:

Diagnosis

  • What is the name of the condition? How do you spell it?
  • Why do you think I have this health problem? What may have caused it?
  • How long may this problem last? Will it be permanent?
  • How will this problem affect me? Will I need to change some of my activities?
  • Are there long-term effects of this problem?
  • Can my health problem be cured? How can it be treated or managed, made better?
  • How can I learn more about my condition?

Medications

  • What is the name of the medication?
  • What condition is it being prescribed for?
  • When and how often should I take the medication?
  • Should I take it at meals or between meals?
  • Do I need to drink a whole glass of water with it?
  • Are there foods, drugs, or activities I should avoid while taking this medicine?
  • What are the common side effects?
  • What should I pay attention to?
  • When will the medicine begin to work?
  • What should I do if I miss a dose?
  • Will I need a refill? How do I arrange that?

Tests

  • Why is the test being done?
  • What will it show about my health?
  • What do I need to do to get ready for the test?
  • How is the test done? What steps does the medical test involve?
  • Are there any dangers or side effects?
  • How will I find out the results of my test? How long will it take to get the results?
  • What will we know after the test?

Find more information about questions you should ask your care provider, or find a physician.

It's easy to get the care you need.

See a Premier Physician Network provider near you.