35 Questions to Ask Your Doctor
When you get into your doctor’s office, it is easy to slip into a passive role, leaving it up to your provider to take charge and lead the show. Before you know it, you might find yourself leaving your appointment without getting the information you really needed and without asking the questions you really wanted answered.
And that doesn’t bode well for an effective, productive health-care partnership. It turns out that the more engaged, curious, and active you are as a patient, the better your care experiences and even health-care outcomes are likely to be.1
It is vitally important to take an active role in your health care. So what is one of the easiest ways to start? Asking questions.
Asking questions can improve your care
It isn’t uncommon to feel nervous or shy at the doctor’s office, and you may feel the urge to hold back. But talking with your doctor openly builds trust and paves the way for an effective relationship—something that can positively impact your care outcomes.2
One of the best and easiest ways to boost communication with your doctor and health-care team is to start asking questions. Patients who ask providers questions tend to get higher quality care and are happier with their results.5 Asking questions has also been shown to reduce the chance of mistakes, tests that aren’t needed, and unnecessary hospital stays.2
Your doctor wants you to be proactive and ask questions. Questions will help your doctor gather important information that may affect decisions and treatment plans, such as what is most important to you and what your unique concerns are. If you don’t ask questions, your provider may miss important details. Or they may assume that you already know the answers and don’t want more information.
So you need to speak up! Ask the questions that are on your mind, and help ensure that you and your doctor are on the same page.
Top 35 questions to ask your doctor
Asking key questions during your doctor visits will help you get the information you need and ensure that your health care needs get met.
Whether you are going in for your yearly checkup, you’ve just received a new diagnosis, or you are considering various treatment options, these questions to ask your doctor can help you get started:
1. Questions about routine health maintenance
Annual physical exams, preventative services, screening tests, and healthy daily habits are all important in keeping you healthy and preventing future complications. Make sure to ask your doctor about what you should be doing and if you need to take any action to maintain your health.
Specific questions to ask your doctor include:
- Am I up to date on my routine health maintenance?
- What preventative care services or screening tests are recommended for me?
- How does my family history affect my risk for certain conditions?
- What else could I be doing to stay healthy and prevent disease?
- Are my feelings of ____ normal? (for example – physical pain, digestive discomfort, stress, sadness, anxiety, fatigue, etc.)
- How do things like sleep, stress, and physical activity impact my health?6
2. Questions about medical testing
If your doctor orders a medical test, you want to be sure you know what it is, why it’s being ordered, what it will tell you, and what you can expect from the experience.
Here are some questions to ask to get the information you need:
- What is the test for?
- Why is it important and what will it show?
- How should I prepare for the test?
- When can I expect to get the results and learn about next steps?
3. Questions about a new diagnosis
Getting a new diagnosis can be a confusing and challenging time. Likely, you’ll have a lot of questions and uncertainties running around in your head. Your doctor should explain what your new diagnosis means and what you can expect moving forward. But don’t leave it up to them to read your mind and tell you what you want to know. Speak up and ask for specifics.
These are some key questions to ask your doctor to help you understand a new diagnosis:
- What is the name of the condition?
- Why do you think I have it?
- What might have caused it?
- How is this condition treated or managed?
- What is the long-term outlook?
- What are possible complications?
- Where/how can I learn more?
ZYTO technology can remove barriers to verbal communication by gathering objective information directly from the body. Learn more here.
4. Questions about your doctor’s expertise
Whether you have a long-standing relationship with your provider or you’ve just started seeing them, don’t be afraid to ask questions about your doctor’s experience. This is especially important if you are dealing with a specific condition that might require a specialty approach.
Ask questions such as:
- How many patients with my condition have you treated?
- How many times have you done this procedure?
- Should I get a second opinion?6 7
5. Questions about treatments
When considering any new treatment plan (or assessing an ongoing plan), you always have the right to fully understand the benefits, risks, expected outcomes, and alternatives. Not all treatments might be right for you and your unique needs, and there may be different ways to approach and manage the concern. But you won’t know if you don’t ask.
So make sure to ask questions such as:
- Why do I need this treatment?
- What outcome should I expect?
- What are the risks of this treatment, and what are the risks of not treating at all?
- Do we have to do this now, or can we revisit the option later?
- What are the different treatment options and are there any alternatives?
- Is there anything I can do on my own to improve my condition?
6. Questions about medications
For each medication you are prescribed, you should know what it is, what it does in the body, why it’s important to take, and what you can expect when taking it. Lack of communication about side effects, drug interactions, and special instructions for taking your dose can have serious consequences.
To ensure the medication is right for you and that you take it safely, ask questions like:
- Why has this drug been prescribed?
- Can you write down the name of the medication along with your instructions for how to take it?
- Are there any side effects?
- Will this medicine interact with medicines that I’m already taking?
- How long will it take to work?
- What do I do if I miss a dose?
- How can I reduce or stop some of my medications?
7. Questions to finish up
There are a few key questions you can ask at the end of your visit to make sure all of the bases have been covered and that you are leaving your appointment with a road map for next steps.
These are questions that doctors recommend you ask before leaving the office:
- What’s next?
- What questions haven’t I asked that I should have?”6
Tips for making the most of your appointment
To help you communicate more effectively with your provider and get the most out of your time together, consider these tips:
- Prepare a list of questions before your appointment. Time is often limited, and it is easy to feel rushed or forget key questions. To make sure you leave the appointment with the information you need, take time before your visit to write down what’s been on your mind and any questions you have. Go through the list above and pick out those questions that apply to you.3
- Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification if you don’t understand the answer. If your doctor’s answer leaves you feeling confused and not 100% clear, then keep asking until you understand what you need to know.
- Bring a family member or friend along. A trusted person can help you make the most of your appointment. They can serve as an extra set of ears, they can take notes, they can remind you of anything you are forgetting, and they can even help ask extra questions that you might not have thought of on your own.
- Follow up for more information. If you don’t have time to ask everything or if additional questions pop up after your appointment, email or call the doctor’s office to get the answers you need. You may also be able to talk to the support staff, who can often answer many of your basic questions.5
- Return to key questions over the course of care. You may want to return to certain questions and ask them repeatedly throughout your relationship with a given provider. Answers may change over time depending on various factors, so you’ll want to make sure that you and your provider are both working with the most up-to-date information.
Ask questions for better outcomes
The more engaged, curious, and active you are as a patient, the more likely you are to receive better care and have better outcomes.
When visiting with your providers, one of the easiest and most effective ways to take a more active role in your care is to start asking questions. Asking questions allows your doctor to understand what your concerns, needs, and areas of confusion are so that the two of you can ensure that you’re getting the care and information you need to be successful.
The simple act of asking questions can make a huge difference in your health care experience. As the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality puts it, “A simple question can help you feel better, let you take better care of yourself, or save your life.”
So get started with the list above of questions to ask your doctor and don’t be afraid to speak up!
1. Hibbard, J.H., & J. Greene. “What The Evidence Shows About Patient Activation: Better Health Outcomes and Care Experiences; Fewer Data On Costs.” Health Affairs 32, no. 2 (2013): 207-214.
2. “Tips & Tools: Questions Are the Answer.” Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Ahrq.gov.
3. “Questions to Ask Your Doctor.” Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Ahrq.gov.
4. Chandra, S., M. Mohammadnezhad, & P. Ward. “Trust and Communication in a Doctor-Patient Relationship: A Literature Review.” Journal Healthcare Communications 3, no. 3 (2018): 36.
5. “Good Question.” Rush Health & Wellness. Rush.edu
6. “9 Questions Your Doctor Wishes You’d Ask.” Time. Time.com.
7. “The 10 Questions You Should Know.” Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Ahrq.gov.