Getting to Know Your Doctor

Getting to Know Your Doctor

Getting to Know Your Doctor

Here are 12 common questions to ask your doctor or other health care provider:

  1. Can you tell me about your training and experience? What about your staff?
  2. How accurate and safe are the tests that you want to run?
  3. Do I need to change my day-to-day habits?
  4. Will your services and any treatment or surgery be covered by my health insurance? Are you in my health insurance plan’s network?
  5. Is it likely that the treatment will work?
  6. Can you tell me about how this treatment was proven to be safe?
  7. How did you decide my diagnosis? Are there other possible causes for my symptoms?
  8. How may I reach you or your staff if I have follow-up questions?
  9. Is there more than one treatment option for what I have?
  10. How can I be sure the treatment is working?
  11. If surgery is recommended, what are the risks?
  12. What are the side effects of the drug you want me to take? Are there generic drugs available that would be just as effective as name-brand?

Get ready before you see your doctor.
Do you speak the same language as your doctor? Doctor listings in our online Provider Finder® tool show what languages the doctor speaks.

Making lists and notes before your visit can help you say what you need to say. Some symptoms or questions may be hard to bring up or talk about. Write down words you can use to get started. Notes can help you make the best use of your time. Here is what your visit notes should include:

  • A list of symptoms: When did your health concern start? Where does it hurt? How badly does it hurt? Does it get better or worse with activity? Does rest help? Does what you eat make a difference?
  • Your health history: This could include past illnesses, injuries, diseases, allergies or anything that has affected your health. Be sure to mention your family’s health history. 
  • Your list of questions: Some questions you know ahead of time. Some questions pop up as you talk with your doctor. Notes help make room for both.
  • Your health history: This could include past illnesses, injuries, diseases, allergies or anything that has affected your health. Be sure to mention your family’s health history.

You should also bring:

  • Current medication: A list of drugs is a great start, but actual prescription drug and/or over-the-counter supplement bottles are better. The labels on your medicines can give the doctor more detail.
  • Records: Bring records from previous tests or procedures, including X-rays. Written test results and surgery reports can have helpful notes. You can always ask for a copy of your files from the doctors you have seen.
  • Another person: If you're worried, bring a trusted friend or relative with you.

Being able to talk with your doctor can help you stay healthy.
Talking openly with your doctor helps with:

  • Testing: Your doctor may need to run tests. You should ask the doctor or staff about the tests they recommend. Some tests are simple. For other tests you may have to get ready ahead of time. You may also need someone with you. Ask about any risks of the test. Also ask when you will get the results and how they will be explained to you.
  • Diagnosis: Finding a problem is the first step to treating it. Many different health issues cause the same symptoms. Tell your doctor how you feel and if you felt this way before. Also, talk about where you have been and what you have been doing lately. Some places and environments can affect your health, even in ways you may not feel or know about.
  • Medicines: Sometimes your doctor needs to prescribe medicine. Tell your doctor if any medicine ever made you feel bad. You may be allergic. Also ask the doctor if your medicine may have side effects. Be sure to tell your doctor if you are taking any other medicines, vitamins or supplements. Medicines do not always work well together.
  • Treatment: You may need to change what you eat or how active you are. You may need to take a new medicine or consider surgery. Sometimes you may have choices. Ask your doctor about any risks. Ask yourself, is there anything stopping you from following your doctor’s instructions? If so, tell your doctor.
  • Cost: Of course, remember to ask your doctor if he or she is in your health insurance plan’s network. If you have a PPO plan, your costs will be higher if the provider is not in your plan’s network. If you have an HMO plan, your primary care physician (PCP) directs all of your health care. You will need to see your PCP and get a referral first before seeing any specialist. Be sure to ask for an in-network specialist. If you have questions, you can also call your health plan.

Ask questions and repeat the doctor’s answers. Ask more questions if you need to during and after your appointment, even if it’s questioning something that doesn’t appear to be correct on your Explanation of Benefits. Your doctor will know you care about your health.

Originally published August 21, 2015; Revised 2017