Some people hate going to the doctor. Whether it’s a fear of learning something’s wrong or that they won’t get the information they want, it sometimes leads to disappointment when leaving an appointment.
However, visiting the doctor can be a much more valuable experience if you do one simple thing: speak up. Doctors don’t automatically know exactly what’s concerning you, even if you think it’s obvious. Here are 7 things your doctor wishes you would ask.
1. ‘Could I make any lifestyle changes to improve this condition?’
Depending on your condition, simple changes to your diet, sleep, exercise, or habits (such as smoking) could make a bigger impact than any medication or surgery could. According to Dr. Rob Danoff, a doctor of osteopathic medicine and a certified family physician with Philadelphia’s Aria Health System, the patient should always inquire about things they could change to make a difference.
“Adjusting your lifestyle is often more important than taking the right medication,” Danoff argues. “But many doctors won’t suggest lifestyle interventions unless a patient asks.”
Next: Be sure to know all your options.
2. ‘Are there multiple treatment options? If so, what are they?’
In this day and age, there are often plenty of treatment or surgery options for a condition. Dr. Ted Epperly, a clinical professor of family medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine, told Time why it’s so important to ask about every option your doctor offers.
“It really should be a shared decision-making process,” he explained. “My job is to inform my patients of their options, and then we sort it out together.” However, not all doctors may automatically lay out every choice, so it’s best to ask.
Next: They might not tell you all of these.
3. ‘Are there any side effects I should be aware of?’
You should always learn about the side effects of a treatment instead of going into it blindly. While some patients can handle headaches or nausea, others may feel inclined to steer clear.
“There’s always the possibility that what I do with medications could hurt a patient,” Epperly told Time.
Next: Definitely ask this before you’re roped in.
4. ‘What will be the cost?’
Whether or not it sounds like your doctor is prescribing you a laundry list of treatments for your condition, the bills can rack up super quickly. According to Epperly, “Depending on insurance, I could have just committed my patient to $7,500 worth of copays or bills without knowing it.”
Your doctor may not know off-hand, but they could certainly rope in an administrative member of the team to assess costs before you make any huge decisions.
Next: They won’t take this personally.
5. ‘Would you recommend a second opinion?’
Your doctor is a professional, and they won’t get offended if you ask whether or not a second opinion would be useful. According to Time, “Depending on a doctor’s area of expertise, his or her insights into your symptoms and their causes may be very different from another [doctor’s].”
Next: Don’t stress about this afterwards.
6. ‘How will my test results become available?’
You don’t want to wait until you walked out of getting blood tests or an MRI and wonder, “How will I find out my results?”
Dr. Adrienne Boissy, chief of patient experience at Cleveland Clinic, calls it “an age old problem.” In case your doctor doesn’t tell you the next steps for finding your results, keep a mental note to ask.
Next: They might come up with something useful.
7. ‘Are there any other questions you think I should ask?’
Even if you don’t have any other specific questions popping up in your mind, it’s safe to ask if your doctor can think of anything else you might like to know.
“I just heard this question from a patient last week, and I thought it was incredibly helpful,” Boissy explained. It helped her realize that she and her patient hadn’t gone over any emotional side effects from their treatment. She attested, “That’s probably the most important side of things, and I might have forgotten to go through that with him if he hadn’t asked.”
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