When a patient is first searching for a provider or looking to establish a relationship with a new doctor, there are various questions they can ask to ensure this provider is right for them.
Managing and organizing different medications or treatment plans can be overwhelming. There are a number of important questions to ask a doctor that can help make this easier.
If a patient recognizes new symptoms of a healthcare issue, it’s important that they address it with their provider.
When attending a doctor’s appointment, there can be a number of things racing through a patient’s head depending on the scenario and what’s currently impacting their health. It’s important for a patient to properly prepare for their visit by recording any questions, comments, or concerns they want to discuss with their doctor. Doing so will help a patient feel that their needs are being met and provide them with the clarity they desire.
The main goal of a primary care physician and a primary care team is to guide their patients through the various facets of their healthcare plan. In order for primary care doctors to fully understand their patients and what they need, it’s crucial for a patient to be open and honest with their doctor about anything they feel is relevant to their wellbeing. Any provider’s role is to help their patients take charge of their own healthcare, but they can only do that if a patient is upfront and sincere during their appointments.
The questions provided in this article can be the perfect way to open up a conversation with your doctor and address any concerns you may have.
Considerations For Picking A Primary Care Doctor
Prior to selecting a primary care doctor, there are important questions a patient should ask themselves and/or the doctor’s office staff to ensure that the health care provider is right for them.
There are so many different primary care providers to choose from. Self-reflective questions guide a patient into thinking about what their healthcare wants are and set boundaries about what they need from a provider.
Introspective questions include but are not limited to:
Would you prefer a female or male doctor?
Do I want an internal medicine doctor or a family medicine doctor?
How far are you willing to travel to see your primary care physician?
Do you have any chronic conditions that you prefer for the doctor to specialize in? (For example, heart disease or high blood pressure.)
How will this provider fit into your schedule e.g. do you need the practice to have availability on weekends or late hours?
What kind of primary care provider are you looking for?
What is your insurance plan so you can ensure the provider is in-network?
Are you OK with seeing a Nurse Practitioner or Physician’s Assistant?
After a patient has assessed their healthcare wants and needs, they should reach out to any potential provider’s office to clarify their questions or concerns.
Questions to ask the office staff include but are not limited to:
What are the provider’s medical qualifications and experiences?
What is the physician-patient communication style like i.e. does the doctor typically discuss options or do they direct the decisions on the patient’s care without much input?
Does this practice provide a way to connect with providers through an online portal?
Does this practice provide care in emergency situations or after hours?
Does this practice provide transportation for its patients if necessary?
Does this practice accept my insurance?
Are there any conditions that this provider specializes in?
After a provider has been selected and the patient is having a consultation with their new physician, it’s important to ask certain questions that establish a solid rapport.
Questions to ask a new doctor may include but are not limited to:
How often should I come in for a check-up?
Which health screenings are recommended for me currently?
Am I up to date on all of my vaccinations?
Can you help me to set some health goals?
How does my medical history play into my day-to-day health?
Is my weight at a healthy level for my height and age?
What lifestyle changes can I make to improve my health?
What’s next for me in terms of preventive care measures?
If a child or teenager is establishing a relationship with a new doctor, they may want to ask questions that establish a sense of openness and security with their provider.
These kinds of questions may include:
Is everything I say to you confidential?
Is it okay for me to speak with the doctor without having my parents present?
Am I able to see the doctor without my parents knowing?
Questions Regarding Medication
Medication regulation and maintenance can be hard to keep track of, so it’s important to speak frankly about your medications with your doctors. This includes over-the-counter medications.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions about different medication options or mention that one prescription is making you feel odd in some way. Be truthful about how frequently you are taking your medications and the side effects stemming from them. Your provider is there to handle your care and assist you in taking charge of your wellbeing, so be upfront about your medication concerns.
Questions regarding medications to ask your doctor may include but are not limited to:
Is there any way to reduce the medications I’m on?
Are there less expensive options for my medications?
What are each of my medications treating and why?
What time of day should I take this medication?
Is it recommended that I take this medicine with food?
What are the potential side effects of this prescription?
Are there any alternative treatment options aside from taking medicine?
Will this medication interact with any of my other medications?
Are these vitamin supplements I’m taking worthwhile for my health?
How long will I take this medication?
What are the generic and brand names of this medication?
What happens if I accidentally miss a dose of my prescription?
Is it okay for me to stop taking this medication if I’m experiencing unwanted side effects or am feeling back to normal?
Can you help me organize my medications and track when I should take them?
How frequently should I take my prescription?
Is this medication over the counter or will I need to have a prescription to receive refills?
How many refills does this prescription come with?
Questions Regarding Mental Health
Mental health plays a large role in one’s physical health and can take a toll on a patient’s general wellbeing. Primary care doctors aim to establish comprehensive care that oversees all facets of a patient’s healthcare. This being said, if a patient feels they are struggling with their mental health in any way, they should reach out to their doctor with their questions, comments, or concerns.
Questions may include:
I’ve been feeling overwhelmed lately and it’s beginning to affect my well-being. How should I proceed with coping?
Do you have any recommendations for a counselor I could speak to about my anxiety?
I have recently been speaking with a therapist and have been diagnosed with a mental health condition. How can this condition affect my physical health?
Are there any resources you can provide me with surrounding addiction and attempting to quit?
Are my feelings of anxiety/depression/sadness considered normal?
Are there options for group therapy you can connect me with?
A loved one recently passed away and I’m struggling to cope with my grief. How can this affect my health and what do you recommend I do as my next steps in this process?
Questions Regarding Tests/Test Results
At times, medical tests or test results may seem like they are written in an entirely different language. Don’t be afraid to speak up and ask the doctor to explain any tests or results to you in-depth. Providers are there to guide you throughout your healthcare journey; making sure you understand the components of your health and wellbeing.
Questions regarding tests or test results may include:
What is the purpose of this test?
Will the test be painful at all?
When will I receive the test results?
Is this a common test procedure?
When should I get the test?
Does the test require me to fast?
What happens if I refuse to get the test?
Are there alternative methods to getting this test done?
Is there anything I should do to prepare for this test?
Are there any side effects I should hone in on and report to you?
Will the test be administered in your office or at another location?
Questions to Ask Before Surgery
Surgery is a major event in a patient’s life as it often requires them to be put under anesthesia and heal for a series of days. Prior to undergoing a procedure, a patient should be sure to discuss any questions or concerns with their provider so they feel comfortable.
Questions regarding surgical procedures may include:
What is the purpose of this surgery?
Are there alternative options aside from this surgical procedure?
Is there more than one way to perform this procedure?
How much will this surgery cost?
Where will the surgery be performed?
Who will be performing the surgery?
Will I need to stay in the hospital overnight after the surgery?
How long will the surgery take?
Will I be under anesthesia for this surgery? If so, how long will I be asleep?
What are the benefits of having this procedure done?
What are the risks of this surgery?
Where can I get a second opinion about this surgery?
What will happen if I choose not to follow through with this surgery?
How much experience do you have with this procedure?
How long will it take me to recover?
Will I be on medication after the procedure is over? If so, which medications will I be prescribed?
Is a loved one allowed to stay in the recovery room with me before the surgery and once I am finished?
Questions Regarding a New Diagnosis
When approaching the doctor with a concern about your health, it’s good to lay out all possible details pertaining to the recently developed symptoms or condition. Prior to attending your doctor’s appointment, it would be useful for a patient to ask some self-reflective questions in order to outline the full scope of what they feel is wrong.
Introspective questions can be deduced from the famous OPQRST method and may include but are not limited to:
O: Onset of the event
What were you doing when the pain began?
Is the pain sudden, gradual, or chronic?
P: Provocation of the problem.
- Is the pain better or worse with:
Activity: standing, lifting, twisting, etc.
Position: sitting, standing, lateral, etc.
Assistant: Does any medication or alternative tool such as heat, ice, massage therapy, etc. alleviate the pain?
Q: Quality of the pain.
Is the pain throbbing, dull, aching, sharp, etc.?
R: Region and radiation of the pain.
Where is the pain located on the body?
Does it move to any other parts of the body?
S: Severity of the pain.
Score the pain on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the worst pain possible.
T: Timing of the event.
When did the pain originate?
Has it gotten better or worse since it began?
Once the patient has a firm grasp on what they feel their symptoms are, they should proceed to discuss their notes with a provider. Questions they should ask a doctor about their symptoms or any newly diagnosed condition can include:
What is the disease or condition?
How serious is this condition?
What are the short-term and/or long-term plans for treating this disease or condition?
Will this condition ever go away?
Do I have to take medication for my condition?
What lifestyle changes can I make to relieve this disease or condition?
Are there any symptoms I should watch out for with this disease or condition?
Is there any other disease or condition that could be inducing my symptoms?
Are there any tests I can or should take to identify and confirm this disease or condition?
What caused me to develop this disease or condition?
Should I schedule a follow-up visit to monitor and track my symptoms with you?
Is this contagious?
What are my treatment options?
How long will treatment take?
Are there any side effects I should look out for with my treatment?
Will my life be impacted by this disease or condition?
What are the risks and benefits associated with my treatment plan?
Is there anything I should avoid doing while undergoing treatment?
What is the cost of the medication or treatment?
What treatment plan is most common for my disease or condition?
How does family history affect this disease or condition?
There are a number of other resources you can use to help guide your healthcare research and find the questions you want to ask your primary care team. These include: