4. Ask Questions
Don’t be afraid to ask follow-up questions!
- If you’ve been given a prescription, ask about potential side effects or drug interactions… and if there are alternatives to taking the prescribed medication.
- If additional medical tests are ordered, make sure you understand why, if there are any alternatives, and what the doctor expects to learn. Ask how and when you will receive results of these tests. Don’t go along with the “no news is good news” theory. If you do not receive test results in a timely manner, make the call yourself.
- If a surgical procedure is suggested, make sure you understand the potential benefits, risks, or alternatives.
- If you have a chronic illness, ask when you should make your next appointment and learn the warning signs that would require immediate care.
5. Be Active, Not Passive
You needn’t wait for your doctor to mention something that’s important to you. It’s your health and you will do better with treatment if you are a partner in your own care. Nobody understands your body, your mind, your life the way you do.
- If you believe you need a second opinion, don’t be afraid to get one.
- If you think an alternate treatment might be available, ask about it.
- If you have been diagnosed with a medical condition, do additional research on your own. When searching for health information online, consider the source. Look at the address in your web browser and make sure it is a reputable person or institution. Use the web to create a list of questions to ask your doctor.
- Understand the difference between physician-provided information and patient-provided information. Other patients can give you a point of view that your doctor probably cannot. This can be extremely valuable, although not a substitute for medical care.
If your doctor does not treat you with respect or discourages your active role, it’s time to find a new doctor who believes in patient-centered, compassionate care.