Guest post by Lana Benton, RN, iRNPA, RN Patient Advocates of NC
You go to your doctor’s appointment and the first thing that happens is the nurse takes your weight, then your blood pressure and pulse. Of course, your blood pressure reads high. You have “White Coat Syndrome”!
Next you go into the room, where you may be asked to undress, fully or partially, and put on a lovely gown that only covers a portion of you.
In comes the doctor, barrages you with questions, all the while typing into the computer. After completion of the cursory exam, prescriptions are written and you are on your way. You barely get a word in other than a yes or no.
This leaves very little time for YOU to ask your questions.
YOUR questions are the heart of the appointment. Yet so few of us speak up and ask questions. There are many reasons for this with time being one of them. But, your appointments are about you and your medical needs.
According to the Center for Advancing Health, 50% of Medicare patients do not prepare a list of questions to ask their doctors. And preparation is key.
Prior to the appointment, write notes of what you want to discuss. What symptoms are you having and are they new or continuing? Know your medications and why you are taking them. Are you having side effects or harmful interactions? Do you need to prepare for tests such as lab work, such as can I eat before they are done? Always ask if the tests are medically necessary. Not all are necessary – many are ordered by habit!
Most importantly, bring someone to the appointment who can take notes. During the appointment, focus on having a conversation with your physician. Clarify the notes before you leave. You can explain that “We both want the best outcomes but I don’t understand these instructions. Please repeat or clarify them.”
Albert Einstein said, “The important thing is not to stop questioning.” Be confident in asking your questions.
Top 10 Questions to Ask Your Doctor
These questions are noted for visits to your primary doctor or general practitioner. They may be used as a general guideline and not all questions are necessary for every appointment.
- How many people with my condition have you treated and what outcomes do you see?
- What medications should I be taking and how will they help me? What are the side effects? If over 65 years of age, are my medications recommended for me? Have you checked them against the Beer’s List?
- Is this test or procedure medically necessary?
- How much will this cost me? Is this visit covered by my insurance?
- What is the likely cause of my condition? What can I do to improve it? How will it affect me?
- What are all my treatment options?
- What is the risk to me if I wait for a second opinion?
- I’d like more information about this, where do you recommend I go for this?
- Is there anything else I should be doing?
- Are there questions I haven’t asked that I should?
Lana Benton is an RN with 30 years of healthcare experience in a variety of settings. Having graduated with her BSN from the Medical College of GA, her career has been a natural progression from nursing assistant to staff nurse to full time Patient Advocate. Believing that every patient should have the tools they need to make informed decisions about their care, education is one of the most important aspects of the advocate. Giving you those tools to make your decisions, understand your medical care, and work toward your best outcomes is the foundation of her statement, “Your Health, Your Voice, and Your Guide.”