6 Questions To Ask Your Physician

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Discussing your concerns with your doctor isn’t always easy. You might find it difficult to explain how you’re feeling. You might be embarrassed to ask for clarification about your condition. You may even hide your symptoms because you’re afraid of what they might mean. Trouble is, in order to get the best care, patients have to ask the right questions. And that can be a challenge.

First, make sure to select the right doctor for the job—someone you feel comfortable having honest conversations with, but who is also skilled in areas that meet your health needs. Then, come to your appointment armed with these six questions:

  1. Can you repeat that? Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor to go over information about your condition and any instructions once, twice, even three times—until you understand what you need to know. Write it down, if you can. The goal is to understand first and then repeat what you learned out loud to the doctor, so you both know you are on the same page.
  2. Do you have any printed materials about my condition? When these handouts are available, they’re often a reliable source of information that’s easy for the patient to understand. If your doctor doesn’t have printed materials at the ready, ask him or her to write down the name of your condition and a list of authoritative online resources. Even if a provider has done a great job explaining the condition, patients often mentally shut down as soon as they hear the diagnosis.
  3. Do you have an interpreter? Communities are becoming more and more diverse, and for many patients, English is not their first language. Rather than rely on a family member or friend to interpret information, ask for interpretation services. In most cases, an in-person, telephonic or video translation service is available to provide accurate information in your native language. Don’t hesitate to ask if printed materials are available in your native language, too.
  4. What resources are available to help me manage my stress levels? Patients and physicians rarely discuss how stress may be related to a given health condition. Yet, stress is often an underlying factor in many different conditions, including diabetes, anxiety, chronic headaches, even difficulty breathing. Ask your doctor about ways you can minimize the toll of stress on your body. There may be resources available to help you learn better ways to manage stress.
  5. What if I know I can’t do what you’re suggesting? Once you confirm the plan of action with your doctor, be honest about whether you can hold up your end of it. So, if your doctor tells you to exercise five days each week, and you know you won’t be able to, say it. That gives your provider an opportunity to come up with appropriate alternatives or offer suggestions to help make their recommendations something you can follow through on.
  6. Do you have a patient portal for questions? If you’re still too uncomfortable to ask some of your questions live, ask your doctor if there’s an online patient portal where you can send questions in a secured format. That way, you can ask (and review the answers) in the comfort of your own home. And since a member of your health care team provides a written response, you can share it with a family member or someone else you trust.

The most important questions of all, though, are ones you have to ask yourself: Am I with the right doctor? Does my provider take time to explain things thoroughly, using words I understand? Does he or she appreciate my cultural background and beliefs? And, perhaps most importantly, do we have a certain chemistry and camaraderie? If not, don’t be afraid to switch doctors.


To find a doctor at Henry Ford, visit henryford.com or call 1-800-HENRYFORD (436-7936).

Categories: FeelWell