Complicated paperwork, lengthy waits and concerns about your condition can increase your stress level when you visit the doctor. By the time your physician asks if you have any questions, you may feel so overwhelmed that you forget to ask about important issues. Preparing a list of healthcare questions in advance, including those listed below, will help you make the most of your time with the doctor and increase satisfaction with your experience.
1. What Is the Cause of My Disease or Condition?
Understanding the cause of your condition can help you make lifestyle changes that can prevent future problems. For example, your condition may be due to a vitamin deficiency from an unbalanced diet. Similarly, a chronic bronchitis diagnosis may make you realize that perhaps it’s time to give up smoking. Identifying the cause of your disease or condition can also help protect your family members’ health, particularly if you have an inherited condition.
2. Are There Alternatives to the Proposed Treatment?
It’s crucial to make sure that you fully understand all of the treatment or pain control options. If your doctor doesn’t mention alternative treatments, make sure you ask if other options exist. Find out why your doctor recommends one particular treatment over another and ask about the side effects of any medication he or she prescribes.
3. What Is the Success Rate of This Treatment?
If your doctor does recommend a particular treatment, it may be because the success rates are particularly impressive. A discussion about treatment success rates can help you weigh the benefits of the treatment against any risks. In addition to asking about the success rate, ask your doctor how much he expects the treatment to help your condition or disease and if results are likely to be short-term or permanent.
4. What Are the Risks of This Treatment?
Almost every treatment or medication comes with risks or side effects. A frank discussion of the benefits and risks can help you decide if the treatment is the right one for you. Although a treatment or medication may list warnings of serious health problems, these issues often only occur in a very small percentage of cases. Obtaining accurate information on the frequency of side effects and successful outcomes is essential when you make a decision about a treatment or medication.
5. How Can I Improve My Health In the Short- and Long-Term?
No matter how successful a treatment or medication, the results won’t matter much if the same problem crops up again a few weeks or months down the road. Ask your doctor for preventive care recommendations that will help you improve your health not only in the coming weeks, but in the coming years. Find out if there are specific symptoms that could indicate that your problem is returning or worsening, and ask what you can do to prevent or reduce these symptoms.
6. What Are the Next Steps?
Before you leave your doctor’s office, you should know exactly what will happen next. If your doctor wants you to see a specialist, ask if his or her office will make the appointment or if you should contact them on your own. Find out if your doctor needs any information from you, such as a release to obtain medical records from another physician. Ask when you should return for a follow-up visit and if you should undergo any type of testing before your next appointment.
An ideal doctor/patient relationship is based on shared decision making, so you and your doctor should work as a team to decide on the best treatment options. As the most important member of this team, it’s essential that you make sure that you’re fully informed about your diagnosis and completely understand all of your options.
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