Don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor

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.

  1. What is this test for?
  2. How many times have you done this procedure?
  3. When will I get the results?
  4. Why do I need this treatment?
  5. Are there any alternatives?
  6. What are the possible complications?
  7. Which hospital is best for my needs?
  8. How do you spell the name of that drug?
  9. Are there any side effects?
  10. 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.”

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  1. Judith A. Carlson August 29, 2014 at 12:06 pm · Reply

    Most doctors welcome questions but some do not and have pat answers to most of them, such as the doctor I’m in the process of leaving after only eight months of him being my primary. His answer to almost everything is “well, you’re getting older” – that is if he doesn’t answer my question with his own question, i.e., “What do you expect me to do about it?” I just had my first visit with a physician who was recommended to me as a possible new primary by a specialist who takes care of my chronic illness (who does listen, does answer questions appropriately, etc.). Just on that first visit all of my questions were answered, I was not patronized, what I said was duly noted and discussed, etc. So I’m having my records transferred to the new primary. This experience has taught me very clearly that not all doctors are on my side – some just can’t be bothered.

  2. Do doctors really have enough time to talk to patients, given the managed care fiasco we have in the USA???

  3. I have a wonderful primary care internist. He has referred me to the great specialists. He takes the time to listen, answers all my questions. Because I have medicare, he does not make the big buck, but really loves helping people.

    So my advice to you Jay, is to find a better doctor.

  4. The questions will be a good resource to help ask the appropriate questions at my next doctor’s appointment.

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

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.