12 Questions Your Dr. Wants You to Ask
1. How’s my body weight?
Doctors are humans. And, like the rest of us, they may be a little afraid of bringing up delicate subjects, like weight. Therefore, don’t assume the onus is on them to tell you about your weight. A 2010 study from STOP Obesity Alliance found that around 70% of obese patients were not diagnosed as such, probably as a result of social embarrassment and politeness.
So don’t miss your chance to hear a professional’s assessment, by asking this weighty question!
2. Can the nurse see me instead?
As ever, doctors are in scarce supply and sometimes you need to be seen immediately. So, if such a case arises, and no doctor is in sight, politely inquire whether a nurse is able to evaluate, diagnose and prescribe medication. In some US states, like Iowa and Colorado, this is already allowed.
3. What sunscreen should I be using?
Sunscreen, as I’m sure you are well aware, is vitally important at preventing the onset of skin cancer. Yet one study spread over 20 years has found that doctors mention sunscreen less than 1% of the time! Therefore, you really need to be the one asking this question. You can’t rely on your doctor to think of everything, but they probably do have some important views on the subject.
4. Do people usually feel like this?
One recent study suggests that not even a third of patients with depression are treated as such. For this reason, you need to confide in your doctor about your feelings. You might be surprised to find out how much they know about the subject.
5. Might this be a heart attack?
Surprisingly, the more common symptoms of heart attacks – chest pressure, dizziness, shortness of breath – often come and go without a doctor recognizing them for what they are. One study has found that 30% of heart attack sufferers were misdiagnosed; and the number reaches an astonishing 59% for women. The best advice is to calmly explain your symptoms and ask your doctor to consider heart attacks: it could do the trick.
6. What do you think of what I read on Google about my symptoms?
Doctors often feel as though patients come and see them with a fixed idea of what is wrong with them, confident after having spent hours in front of Google, searching for a diagnosis they trust. However, such diagnoses are only right 50% of the time, whereas doctors are right 90% of the time. So, you should tell your doctor what you suspect to be the problem, informing them where you found the information. Then listen to what they have to say with an open mind.
7. What good internet resources and apps are there for health info?
Doctors are very intrigued to know which resources their patients are using. After you tell them where you’ve searched, ask them their opinions about the best places to look. They will have a good idea about the most reliable and informed sites and apps out there.
8. When should I see you again?
We should all be proactive in taking care of our health, and that means making regular appointments, rather than just waiting until we need to go. Even just one annual visit should be enough to get you into the habit of taking your health seriously. This is particularly important for men, who tend to shy away from such visits far more than women do.
9. What should I do before I see you next?
Your doctor would love it if you could start this conversation. This will set up some good realistic expectations for your next visit, putting you in charge of your own health by giving your doctor the best information you can.
10. How can I stop this happening again?
It’s probably the case that many years of poor exercise or diet has led to your condition, but you can’t really be sure if you aren’t told this. And you might never be told, if you don’t ask!
11. What do you do for your own health?
A good doctor should also be a healthy individual. Therefore, find out just what it is they do to stay in good health. The dialog could be very useful in giving you a good practical idea of how to improve your health. After all, they are experts.
12. What other things can I do to help my condition?
Perhaps your doctor doesn’t have all the answers when it comes to exercise and nutrition, nevertheless, they will know the people who do. So, while only 28% of doctors bring up the topic of exercise, you need to make sure they discuss it with you. It’s not all about surgery and drugs, is it?
12 Questions Your Dr. Doesn’t Want You to Ask – But You Should!
1. Have you washed your hands? Will you remove your wedding ring?
Some sources have found that doctors are only properly washing up around 3 or 4 in 10 times. So, it’s actually up to us patients to put pressure on doctors to maintain a rigorous standard of hygiene.
Furthermore, 98,000 Americans die at hospitals due to bacterial infections. One study has found that nurses and doctors with wedding rings have 10 times more bacteria on their hands than those without. Don’t be afraid to ask, this is your health.
2. Why do I need this medication?
It’s important to be as informed as you can be about why a doctor has prescribed a certain medication for you. If you just accept their instructions blindly, it could be that you are not really convinced of the benefits and might even fail to take the advice seriously. Some people let their medication routines slip as a result of this.
However, it’s also a good idea to ask this question, to put pressure on the doctor to show that such drugs really are necessary. If everybody did this, it’s quite likely that doctors would make less mistakes administering unnecessary drugs. As I’ve said, they are human.
3. Does my child NEED antibiotics?
Unfortunately, another of the social pressures that doctors have been known to wilt under comes from parents. Parents often expect antibiotics to be administered, even when medically it’s unnecessary. The resultant problem may be a rise in antibiotic resistant bacteria. By prodding your doctor, you could help reverse this dangerous development, and protect your child from unnecessary medication.
It could embarrass them, your questioning their judgment, but it’s much better in the long run.
4. Do I actually need to do this test?
Doctors are frightened of being sued by litigious patients, so will order tests that aren’t strictly necessary, just to be on the safe side. It’s estimated that around 16% of prostate screening are unnecessary, and some 80% of men undergo needless PSA biopsies ever year. CT scans are also too frequently used, causing around 5,500 cancer cases per year.
5. Where would you send your wife and kids?
GPs are placed within certain health-care systems and may feel duty-bound to refer you to colleagues within that system. However, you can cut straight through that nonsense with a simple question like this. Doctors will know who they admire, who they’d trust their most loved family with. Those are the people you want working on your health.
6. How much surgery do you do every year?
Estimates suggest that doctors who perform 40 prostatectomies a year experience half the amount of complications than doctors who do less than this amount; and the same holds with all surgeries. The more practice they get, the better they become. By finding out their track record, you’ll get a good idea of their level of competence.
7. Have you had many patients with the same problems as me?
If your problem is quite a dangerous one, you could get great confidence from knowing that your doctor is experienced with it, and knows what they are talking about. On the other hand, if they are not, you might consider asking for a referral from them. It’s not nice, but sometimes you have to look after yourself.
8. Could I make my surgery appointment for the morning?
I do all my best work in the morning, I’m alert and full of energy. The same goes for doctors. One study at Duke University found that of 90,000 surgeries, those performed before lunchtime had four times less complications than those done after.
9. If I am admitted to hospital, will you see me there?
Chances are, if you are admitted to hospital, that you will be assigned a new doctor who knows nothing about you. Check with your GP to see whether they can indeed see you in the hospital. Don’t worry if it’s hard for them, it’s their job and you are their patient!
10. Are you receiving work related bonuses?
You don’t want to be attending a surgery where the doctors are paid based on the number of patients they see. In such a system, naturally, the doctors will try to get through as many patients as possible, meaning they are not devoting as much time to you and your situation as they possibly can.
11. When did you graduate from medical school?
It may sound unfair, but those who have qualified recently have more up-to-date knowledge than those who have not. Harvard Medical School analyzed 62 previous studies and found that those who qualified more than two decades earlier were 48% less likely to be totally informed on the latest medical developments. New guidelines may be unknown to them.
Remember that science moves very quickly. You don’t want old ideas, that have been superseded, being applied to your health situation.
12. What on earth does that say?
It sounds like a joke, but I bet you have seen this all-too-often yourself. Many doctors do not write well for the benefit of you or your pharmacist. If you can’t read the prescription, are you sure the chemist can? Amazingly this problem is responsible for 1.5 million patient injuries per year, and 61% of all medication errors. If you have to, get them to spell the word out for you so you can make your own separate note.
As it turns out, this is no laughing matter.