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Questions to Ask Your Doctor

It is important to know as much as you can about your health problem. Before you meet your doctor and health care team, make a list of what would like to know about your condition, its treatment and effect on your health and lifestyle. The more information you have, the better your outcomes and care will be.

Use these questions to find out more

Ask your doctor or health care team these questions to find out more about your health problem. The answers to them will help you to understand:

  • what your condition is
  • why you have it
  • what you need to do to get better
  • how it might affect other parts of your life
  • how to look after yourself.

If you run out of time to go through your list of questions, ask your doctor when you may have another chance to discuss them, or about other useful sources of information. You may also want someone with you as a support and to help you understand the information.

Diagnosis and general treatment

  • Diagnosis: What is my diagnosis? What kind of disease is this? What can you tell me about its causes?
  • Track record: What is your experience in treating this condition?
  • Options: What are my treatment options? What are the goals for my treatment?
  • Risks: What are the risks of tests and treatment? What are the risks of not treating at all? Are all the tests necessary?
  • Outlook: How will my condition change over time? What is the long-term outlook?
  • Possible complications: What complications could develop from my condition? Could it affect other parts of my body, such as my eyes, heart, lungs, brain, kidneys or gut? Is there anything I can do to prevent this from happening?
  • Other specialists: Should I see any other specialists about my condition or its possible effects, e.g. dermatologist, cardiologist, gastroenterologist, ophthalmologist etc.?
  • Dental: Do I need any special dental care because of my condition?
  • Surgery: Might surgery be of any help to me now or in the future? What experience does the surgeon have with this kind of surgery?
  • Additional health problems: I also have another chronic health problem. How will this condition affect my other disorder(s) and treatment?

Managing medication

Tell your doctor what medications and supplements, such as vitamins and herbs, you take on a regular basis.

For each medication prescribed you should know:  

  • Name: What is the name of the medication? Is it okay to take the generic brand?
  • Effect: What will it do and how long will it take to work?
  • How often do I take it and what should I do if I miss a dose?
  • Special instructions: Are there any special instructions for taking it, such as with or without food, at bedtime, etc.?
  • Are there any drugs that I should avoid while taking this medication, such as vitamins, antacids, laxatives, anti-inflammatory medication etc.?
  • Are there any foods that I should avoid while taking this medication?
  • Possible side effects: What are the possible side effects? What, if anything, should I call you about immediately?
  • Testing for side effects: Should I have side effects check-ups, such as blood pressure check or blood tests? If so, how often? Should I be checking my blood pressure at home?
  • What medicines can I take for pain? Upset stomach? Headaches? Allergies?

Exercise and physiotherapy

  • Do I need physiotherapy? If so, will you give me a referral for physiotherapy?
  • What exercise can I do – and how often? Will certain exercises help my condition? Are there exercises I should avoid? Is there a specific type of exercise that I should start, such as Pilates, yoga, aerobics or strength training?
  • If I feel pain or discomfort while I'm exercising, should I stop?

Lifestyle and family issues

  • I do (type of work and/or hobbies). Will my condition stop me from being able to do this in the future? (OR: How can I get help from an occupational therapist or other therapist, because I'm already having difficulty doing it?)
  • My condition is making it difficult to be intimate because of (explain the specific reason). Can something be done to help?
  • Will my condition or its treatment affect my ability to have children? Will my children inherit this condition?
  • Are there any changes I can make in my diet that will help this condition?
  • Are there any alternative medicines or treatments (such as massage, relaxation therapy or acupuncture) that will help my condition?
  • I am having emotional difficulties (depression, anxiety, etc.) because of my condition. Can you recommend any treatment (therapy, medications etc.) to help me cope more effectively?

My care after leaving hospital

  • Being discharged: When will I be discharged? Do I need help getting home?
  • Wound care: How do I take care of any wounds? Can someone show me how to do this?
  • Activities to avoid: Are there any activities I should not do like driving, heavy lifting, or climbing stairs? For how long?
  • Safe at home: What do I need to do to make my home safer?
  • Home help: Will I need help when I get home? What kind of help or care will I need? Who will help me? What do they need to do to get ready? Who pays for this?
  • Finding help: What should I do if there is no one at home who can help me?
  • Equipment and aides: Will I need any equipment, such as crutches or oxygen? Where do I get it? How do I use it? Who will pay for it?
  • Getting help: What problems do I need to watch for when I get home? How do I know when I should call if I have a problem?
  • Who do I call if I have questions or problems when I get home?
  • Follow-up: If I don't notice any changes, how often should I have a check-up for my condition?
  • When should I contact/see you instead of just going to the GP?
  • If I have questions about my care after I leave the hospital, who should I contact?
  • What appointments do I need after I leave the hospital? Can the hospital help me make these appointments?
  • Test results: Am I waiting on results of any tests? When should I get the results? Who needs to see them?
  • Are there tests I need after I leave the hospital?
  • Feeling ready to leave hospital: I don't think I'm quite ready to go home yet. Who can I speak with about this?

Contact with my doctor

  • What is the best time of day/week to call you?
  • Can I communicate with you by e-mail?
  • Who covers for you when you are unavailable?

Learning more about my condition

  • Are there any local support groups or organisations that are available?
  • What books, websites or other materials do you suggest I read to learn more about my condition?

Adapted from:
Benzaia, Diana, MA. Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Your Condition, Hospital for Special Surgery, 17 August, 2010. Accessed 15 October, 2014.