Friday, October 24, 2008

Asking questions - a guide for patients

We expect our doctors to provide us with the information we need about our medical problems, so that we can get the right medical care. The only way we learn about our options is by asking questions , but unortunately, most patients are not very good at asking questions - and if you don't ask the right questions, you'll never get the right answers !

1. What to ask ?

Which questions to ask is the first skill you need to master. In general, it's quite easy to find answers to medical FAQs easily online - and if you can find the answers to your questions on the web or from books, then it's not usually a good idea to ask your doctor these questions, unless you need confirmation or validation.

Since doctors have a limited time, the best questions to ask are those which will have an impact on your treatment options. Make a list of all your questions - and try answering those you can by doing your own homework yourself. With the remaining questions, try prioritising them, and start by asking the important ones first; leaving the unimportant ones to the end, so you can skip them if you run out of time

2. Whom to ask ?

The doctor is not always the best person. If it's questions about billing or costs, often the clinic staff will be much better informed - and much more helpful too !

3. When to ask ?

This is an art you need to learn. Unfortunately, many patients only seem to remember all their important questions right at the end of the consultation - at which time the doctor is trying to wind up and move on to the next patient. Not only is he unlikely to provide good answers , he will also resent your questions.

4. How to ask ?

This is an important skill to master. You don't need to be aggressive - but you do need to learn to be assertive. There's a fine balance between the two and you can hone your abilities so you know how to do this. You can learn from your children - when they want something, they know exactly which questions to ask , and how to ask them, so you are much more likely to say yes, rather than no !

Also, remember that not all questions need to be asked face to face. Email is a great way to ask questions and receive answers - and many doctors prefer this option.

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