Don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor
Don’t be shy about communicating with your physician. Doctors say preparing for your visit and coming armed with the right questions will go a long way toward receiving the right care at the right time and avoiding a misdiagnosis.
Seeing your doctor, even for a routine exam, can be an intimidating experience. It’s common for patients to clam up out of fear of asking “dumb” questions.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has guidelines about getting the most out of your doctor’s office visit, and their top suggestion is to ask your doctor plenty of questions.
Dr. Tony Hampton a family medicine physician with Advocate Medical Group, agrees that patients must be active partners with their doctors and need to speak up. He says building a trusting relationship is the key to achieving better outcomes.
“As physicians, we know a lot, but there is a lot we don’t know — about you,” he says. “The more information we have about your health background, the better our chances are at making the right diagnosis and suggesting treatment. No questions should be off-limits.”
But how do you bring up those embarrassing topics? Some things are delicate and can be awkward to discuss. Dr. Hampton says there’s no reason to be shy.
“We’ve seen it all and aren’t shocked by much,” he says. “When you avoid asking sensitive questions out of fear of embarrassment, you run the risk that your doctor might miss a key piece of information that may affect the course of treatment.”
But what are the right questions to ask?
Dr. Hampton suggests the following questions as a place to begin with your physician regarding tests and treatments. They align with physician questions recommended by HHS.
- What is this 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?
“And it’s okay to bring a list of written questions with you during your visit,” Dr. Hampton says. “We’re on your side.”
About the Author
health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.