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Saturday, December 31, 2016

Top Questions to Ask Your Primary Care Physician

Doctor visits are more complicated than they were even five years ago. With electronic health record technology permeating all aspects of medical practice, an immense database for each individual patient is now available at the physician's fingertips at all times.

Yet, despite this vast amount of information, many doctors still exit an exam room without knowing all the details they need to appropriately treat that person. Unfortunately, in many cases, the patient failed to ask the right questions during the visit, leaving the doctor in the dark about the most troubling symptoms. Primary care physicians are typically internists, and well trained in diagnosing health issues.

Many people are hesitant or afraid to ask their doctor for direct and specific health information. For some patients, those in the medical profession hold an exalted status, which can inhibit interactions. For others, fear of what they might learn about their own health keeps their mouths closed when they should be talking. Still others believe that if the physician saw anything amiss during the exam, he or she would point it out. If the doctor is silent on any issue about which patients are concerned, many take that silence as proof that their concerns were unfounded.

Doctors Want Questions

However, almost all physicians agree that patients should ask questions at every visit, to optimize the appointment for both participants. To overcome the intimidation and fear factors, many recommend that patients write their questions down before a visit. If you have a doctor's appointment on your calendar, consider how you can make the most of that visit by being prepared to ask questions:

Questions to Ask Yourself Before the Visit


Each doctor visit is a unique event. Some people may be seeking a change of medication, while others are looking for an examination or diagnosis of a particular health condition. Before you go to see your doctor, clarify the issues that are concerning you and for which you are seeking the doctor's input. Write down each concern, then craft questions that address each of them separately, so you will have a comprehensive list to refer to during your time with your doctor. With that list in front of you, you won't forget to raise any of your concerns.

Questions to Ask Your Doctor Directly

"I'm afraid I have XXX disease because I read about it on the Internet. What do you think?"

Many people hesitate to reveal their actual concerns about their symptoms. In this day and age, a quick Google search will turn up several possible diagnoses for any one symptom. Some people accept the Google "diagnosis" as accurate for their case and don't talk to their doctor about what they've learned.

"Why have you prescribed tests for me? What will they tell you?"

Sometimes, a simple exam doesn't gather the information the doctor needs to make an accurate diagnosis. When this happens, they order additional tests before drawing any health conclusions about their patients. If your doctor has prescribed more tests for you, such as blood or urine tests, he or she may have a diagnosis in mind that the test can confirm or eliminate.

Sometimes tests reveal additional health issues that are not obvious to you, such as high levels of cholesterol or blood sugar. These results may indicate that you have health concerns in addition to the ones you already know about. If your doctor asks for tests, be sure to ask if they revealed something new about your actual health condition.

"Based on your exam today, what is my diagnosis and how did you come to that conclusion?"

Incredibly, some people will take home information about how to treat a condition without asking for its name or why they have that diagnosis. While some symptoms are clearly visible, many are not, and can only be identified through medical tests. Based on the exam and the results of your tests, your doctor can correctly diagnose your condition while eliminating other possible diagnoses. Ask for details about what your doctor discovered about your condition and how your body is reacting to it.

"What is the treatment for this condition? Do I have treatment options?"

Very often, there are several treatment protocols available for one condition. Some patients tolerate some treatments better than others. Accordingly, it is important that you understand what you have and which treatment protocol is the best for your case.

"What will this medicine do for me? Will it cause any side effects?"

Not all medicines are alike; some have side effects that can be very uncomfortable. When talking to your doctor about your treatment, ask if the curative aspects of your medicine outweigh the discomforts of its possible side effects. Ultimately, as the patient, you're the one who will suffer those side effects. When you understand how a medicine will most likely impact your body, you can make a better decision about whether you want to take it.

Also, plan to take the full course of your medication. Many patients begin to feel better almost immediately after starting a medicine regimen, and then fail to complete the entire course. Medicines are calibrated to act over the course of time and will not achieve their full healing effect if stopped prematurely.

Trust and Talk to Your Doctor


Your doctor is just a person who is concerned about your good health. Plan to have an informative and supportive conversation with him or her at your next visit by asking all the right questions.

Sources:

http://www.cfah.org/prepared-patient/communicate-with-your-doctors/asking-your-doctor-questions

https://www.ahrq.gov/patients-consumers/patient-involvement/ask-your-doctor/index.html

http://health.usnews.com/health-news/patient-advice/slideshows/10-questions-doctors-wish-their-patients-would-ask

This is a guest blog post.

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