Most Americans trust their physicians and take what they say to heart. But no matter how much you love or loathe your doctor, there are certain questions patients aren’t asking during their doctor’s visits. Doctors are busy people, and sometimes they forget to ask important things from time to time. Don’t wait for your doctor to bring up treatment options, diagnostic tests, drug side effects, and anything else that’s weighing on your mind, and certainly don’t hold back because you don’t want to “waste their time” by asking too many questions. This is your health, your time.
Come prepared and bring a family member or close friend along to remind you to ask these eight important questions too many patients forget to ask.
1. What is my condition and what caused it?
When patients are given an unexpected diagnosis, they may be so shocked, they forget to ask their doctors for clarification on what exactly they have and how they got it.
Once you’ve gathered your thoughts, it’s time to get some answers. Ask your doctor for the technical name of your disease or condition and have him or her explain what it means in plain English. Depending on the nature of your condition, your doctor may recommend you speak to a specialist or may provide additional literature or pamphlets to further explain your condition. But even if that’s the case, do not leave the doctor’s office without going over the details of your condition and prognosis.
Remember, there may be several likely causes of your condition and your doctor may not be able to pinpoint the exact origin of the disease without further testing and investigation.
2. Why are you prescribing this drug?
Doctors have a tendency to prescribe medications without fully explaining why you are being given this drug and how it is supposed to help you. Don’t just blindly take a prescription without asking what it is for and why it is being prescribed to you. Talk to your doctor about alternatives for taking this medication. Ask about generics. Discuss mixing medications and possible side effects.
All in all, do not leave the doctor’s office without fully understanding why you are being prescribed the medication and how it is supposed to help you.
3. What are the possible side effects?
Before you take a new medication or go under the knife, you need to ask your doctor about the possible side effects associated with a specific treatment. Speak up about any concerns you have and be sure to tell your doctor about any negative side effects or discomfort you’ve experienced in the past.
Knowing what could happen while undergoing a certain treatment will make you a more knowledgeable and aware patient.
4. What are my treatment options?
Patients have a tendency to forget about their treatment options and neglect to ask their doctors about various ways they can treat their disease or condition. People experience symptoms differently and have different needs when it comes to treating certain conditions.
Doctors should not take a one-size-fits-all approach to treating conditions and you should be sure that you know your options before agreeing to any one type. Depending on the severity of the condition and urgency of treatment, you may have some time to do your own research and consult with your doctor before deciding on a specific treatment.
5. What is my outlook for the future?
This is a question patients skip over all too often. Many of us can’t bear to hear anything but an optimistic outlook after receiving a frightening diagnosis, but the fact remains that you need to know your prognosis.
Good or bad, it’s important to know your doctor’s predictions for treatment and the likelihood of recurrence. In some cases, your diagnosis may come with a grim future, but knowing this information sooner than later can make a big difference in the way you handle your condition.
6. How will I know if my treatment is working?
Once you receive a diagnosis and make a decision about treatment, you need to discuss how you will know if the treatment is working. Ask your doctor about the positive and negative side effects of taking a drug, undergoing surgery, or rehabilitation, etc. Even if you’re well aware of the goals of the treatment, you still need to know how to tell if the treatment is working so you can either continue or stop and start another.
7. What changes do I need to make in my daily life?
Patients rarely ask their doctors what changes they need to make in their daily life until after they’ve been diagnosed with a disease or condition. While prevention is often the best medicine, it’s never too late to start making diet and lifestyle changes now to improve an existing condition and increase the effectiveness of the treatment.
Ask your doctor what you can do now to live a better, healthier life.
8. What are your qualifications?
Even if you feel like you’re in good hands with you doctor, it’s never a bad idea to ask what his or her qualifications are to make sure you’re getting the best care possible. Don’t be afraid to ask your doctors for proof of their qualifications and inquire where they went to school, how long they’ve been working in this specialty, how many times they’ve performed a particular surgery or treatment, and so on. Knowing this information can give you peace of mind or alert you to go find a more experienced doctor.
A version of this article first appeared on InsuranceQuotes.org, here.