Tips for talking to your doctor

June 4, 2013 Denise Pinkney

Go prepared

  • Keep a record at home of what's going on with your health, and bring it along to your appointment
  • Make a list of concerns, and bring it along to your appointment
  • Bring a friend or family member
  • Bring along your medications, vitamins and supplements—everything

Do you need an interpreter?
If, for whatever reason, you have a hard time understanding your doctor, call ahead and ask that you have an interpreter present. Or, BCBSND's doctor finder includes information about what languages each doctor speaks. You may be able to find a match that will help you communicate better.

Questions about tests

  • What is the purpose of the test?
  • Is this the most cost effective test to help with the diagnosis?
  • When and how will I receive results?
  • Are their potential complications?
  • Are there any side effects?
  • If so, are there any alternatives?

Questions about medicines

  • How and when do I take this medicine? When can I stop?
    (repeat the instructions back to your doctor and/or pharmacist)
  • Are there generic alternatives that are more cost effective?
  • Are there any side effects? Can I get them in writing to refer to later?
  • Are there alternatives if this doesn't work?
  • Will this drug interact with medicines that I'm already taking?

Questions about treatments

  • Why do I need this treatment?
  • Are their potential complications or side effects?
  • How effective is this treatment?
  • What is my role in making this treatment effective?

Questions about a procedure/surgery

  • Why do I need this procedure?
  • What are the options for treatment?
  • Are there any non-surgical alternatives?
  • Why is surgery recommended?
  • How quickly does this need to happen?
  • How many times have you done this procedure?
  • Are their potential complications?
  • Which hospital should I use?
  • How long can I expect recovery to take?
  • Can I expect a full recovery?
  • Can I get written instructions for reference at home?
  • When can I go back to normal activities?

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources has a tool you can use to build your own set of relevant questions for a doctor visit.