Caribou: Questions to Frequently Ask Your Doctor

August 12, 2020



August 12, 2020

Before the Appointment

Preparing for a doctor visit beforehand will ensure that you have a productive session. Before entering the room, you should have a list of questions or topics that you want to discuss during your appointment. By asking questions, you bring up your most important health care concerns that your doctor may not be aware of. This allows them to check for other discrepancies in your health that they otherwise may not have looked at. 

Here are some things that might get you thinking about what questions to ask:

  • Are you concerned about the effects of your treatment on your daily life?

  • Do you need any new medication?

  • Are there different treatment options that you want to explore?

  • Is there a surgery or medical test that you need?

  • Have you noticed any changes in your appetite, weight, sleep, or energy levels?

  • Have there been any recent changes in your medications or the effects they have had on you?

During the Appointment

The questions you prepared beforehand ensure that there is a plan for your appointment. While talking with your doctor, it is very important to understand what is being said, ask for clarification, and know the next steps. Here’s what to ask:

Do my vital signs look okay? 

At the start of every appointment, your doctor will begin by checking your vital signs. This includes your blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate, and temperature. Your doctor will tell you if they notice something irregular in your vital signs and if they don't say anything then it probably means that everything looks healthy. You can always ask to make sure. 

Am I a healthy weight? 

Although you may weigh yourself regularly and believe that you have a healthy weight, you can always confirm with your doctor. If your doctor is concerned about your weight, you can follow up and ask them questions about physical activity and nutrition. You can also ask them for a referral to a nutrition or exercise specialist. 

Should I start taking any supplements?

Although supplements should not be used as an alternative to nutrient-dense foods, they can be taken to help fill nutritional gaps in your diet. When you tell your doctor about any symptoms you’ve been having, you can ask them if they think supplements can help. However, blood work will likely be required to determine if there is a true need for supplements. 

Am I due for any vaccines?

There is a schedule of recommended vaccines for adults from the US Centre of Disease Control. If you think that you need a vaccine, make sure to ask your doctor at your next visit. It is also a good idea to start a vaccination record if you have not already done so. 

Should I be screened for anything based on my family history or age?

As you age and/or If your family has a history of diseases, it is important to get screened for any health issues or conditions.

What should I know about this medication? 

Asking why a certain medication was prescribed will help you understand the exact use of it. You can also ask how often and when to take it, and whether or not the drug interacts with any other medications that you are taking. Ask the doctor if there are any side effects to the drug and when to contact you if the event side effects do not subside. 

Should I get a second opinion?

It is always good to get a second opinion if you are feeling unsure about your doctor’s diagnosis. Some doctors also suggest that you visit a specialist to confirm your diagnosis. You can ask for a referral to someone who will be able to give you a trustworthy second opinion or you can visit an NCI designated care centre. If your current doctor is against you getting a second opinion, then you can set up a meeting with a different doctor or even consider getting a new doctor. 

Can I get help paying for this?

Paying for your healthcare can be a burden, but many doctors are actually unaware of how much financial stress their patients face. If you are concerned about paying for all your prescriptions, tests, and visits, you should speak up. You can also ask your doctor if there is a generic version of the medication they prescribed that may be cheaper. 

For those receiving treatment or taking prescription medications

Consider asking these questions:

  • What is my diagnosis?

  • What treatment options do I have? What are the benefits of each option? What is the cost of each option? What are the side effects? 

  • Will I need a test? What is the test for? What happens during the test? What will the results tell me? 

  • What does this new medication do? How and when do I take it? Are there any side effects? 

  • Why do I need surgery? Are there any non-surgical ways to treat my condition? How often do you perform the surgery? How is the healing process? 

By the end of all your appointments, always ask:When should I schedule my next appointment? Sometimes you will leave the office and think about calling later to schedule an appointment, but with everything else you have going on in your life, it is easy to forget. If you schedule an appointment before leaving the office, it is another task that can be taken off your list and if you ever need to reschedule, you can easily call in to switch your appointment time.  

After the Appointment

Call your doctor if you are still unsure of the next steps or instructions. If you return home and are still unclear about when to fill prescriptions, when to contact a lab for test results, or need clarification, don’t hesitate to make a call to your doctor’s office. 

Other times to call your doctor: 

  • If your symptoms do not subside or get worse 

  • If you experience side effects or problems with your current or new medicines

  • To ask for your test results and an explanation of the results

  • If you receive new prescriptions or begin taking over-the-counter medicines

It can be hard to think of questions on the spot and to keep track of all your thoughts during an appointment. Preparing for appointments in advance can help you feel confident going in and good coming out of what can seem like very limited time with your doctor.