Woman sitting in Doctor's office

Many of us hesitate to ask questions when we visit the doctor’s office, but it’s one of the best things we can do to ensure we get the care we need. The majority of doctors in the U.S. spend 16 minutes or less with any given patient during a routine visit. If you aren’t prepared, it’s easy to leave your appointment feeling uninformed or confused about your own health.

By playing an active role during your appointment and asking questions, you are more likely to walk away with a comprehensive understanding of any conditions or treatments your doctor diagnosed or prescribed. Here, we’ve compiled a list of questions you should consider asking your doctor. We’ve also included a printable checklist of questions to help guide you through that limited period of time you spend with your doctor.

Questions to Ask Yourself Before the Appointment

These questions can help you prioritize what you’d like to discuss with your doctor so you can maximize your time and theirs. Write down your answers to these questions so you don’t forget something important.

  • What are my specific health concerns?
  • Are there any medical tests I know I need?
  • Do I need to get or change medication?
  • Do we need to discuss an upcoming surgery or ongoing treatment?

Questions About Medical Tests

When it comes to unexpected medical bills, unplanned—and sometimes unnecessary—tests are often to blame. Expensive tests that might not make a difference in terms of treatment can cause a financial burden on patients. Of course, there are also tests that are completely necessary or could even save your life. Asking the right questions will help you determine which tests you truly need.

  • What is this test for?
  • Is it totally necessary?
  • Are there any risks associated with the test itself?
  • How much will it cost?
  • Is it covered by my insurance?
  • Are there alternative tests?
  • What is the testing procedure?
  • How long will it take?
  • What will positive or negative results mean?
  • Will the results affect my treatment plan?
  • When and how will I receive the results?
  • Who do I contact if I don’t receive the results?
  • Will I need further testing?

Questions About Diagnoses

Being given a formal diagnosis by a doctor can be scary and confusing. Sometimes doctors forget to use vocabulary that patients can easily understand. If you find yourself wondering what, exactly, your doctor is trying to tell you, these questions can help clarify things. Keep in mind that if you still feel uninformed after your doctor’s visit, you can do your own research. Just be sure to check your sources.

  • What is the condition called?
  • How do you spell it (or can you write it down for me)?
  • Are there other names for the condition?
  • Will it get worse?
  • Are there other symptoms I should be aware of?
  • Is it contagious?
  • Does it require treatment?
  • What are my treatment options?
  • Should I see a specialist or get a second opinion?

Questions About Treatment

Whether your doctor recommends surgery, medication, or lifestyle changes for a specific condition, it’s important to be clear on what the treatment entails. You can use these questions to make sure you are getting the care that best fits your needs.

  • What are all my options?
  • What do you recommend?
  • How effective is it?
  • How much will it cost?
  • Is it covered by my insurance?
  • Is there a cheaper alternative that would still be effective?
  • What are the risks and side effects?
  • Which hospital or clinic is most suitable for my health and financial situation?
  • How long will I need to continue treatment?
  • Is there a safer alternative?
  • Is it compatible with my current treatment?
  • When and how should I take this medicine?
  • How do you spell the name of that medicine?
  • Are there any lifestyle changes I can make to help my condition?
  • What would happen without the treatment?

Questions to Ask If You Are Over 65

The previous questions are applicable to most adults, but people over 65 should make age-specific inquiries as well. The following questions address health issues commonly faced by this age group. Asking them can help you stay comfortable and healthy as you age.

  • Which screenings do I need, and how often do I need them?
  • Do I need to be treated for depression?
  • Should I be tested for STDs?
  • How can I get better sleep?
  • Are my eating habits appropriate for my age?
  • How can I get the exercise I need without putting too much strain on my body?
  • Do I need any vaccinations?
  • Are all of my medications necessary and compatible with one another?
  • How can I lower my risk of developing dementia?
  • What are some early signs of dementia?

Of course, you will not need to ask all of these questions in a single visit. Your doctor will likely answer the majority of them without your prompting. Here, we’ve included a printable PDF checklist of questions so that you can mark them off as they are answered—and easily see which questions you still need answered. It will also be helpful for you to bring a notebook and pen or pencil so that you can write down important information, such as names of conditions and medications as well as dates for future appointments.


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