10 questions doctors wish their patients would ask

A curious patient is a healthy patient.

When you go to the doctor it’s typically for a specific problem, such as a cold, stomach pain or other issue that you want to get better. But often in their haste to be cured, patients fail to ask doctors questions about their health and take advantage of the short amount of time with the one person who can decipher their blood test results. Doctors say they wish their patients would be more proactive and ask these questions during their visit.

I Googled my symptoms, but what do you think?

Patients often go into a doctor’s office looking for confirmation of what they suspect is wrong with them after Googling their symptoms. Instead, Justin Young, a physician with the California-based urgent care clinic Doctors Express Santa Clarita, recommends telling your doctor what your research found and then listening with an open mind. “Even though you may be informed about your illness after a bit of Internet research, the years of training that your doctor has been through will offer up insight about your diagnosis and why Dr. Google may or may not be accurate,” he says. “Give us a chance. You might be on the right track, but seeking the help of a medical professional to interpret your symptoms, exam and other data is the best way to find out what might be ailing you.”

What Internet resources can I trust for medical information?

Anyone with a blog can give out information and advice on medical issues, says Michael Langan, an internal medicine physician at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. Ask your doctor about what sites he trusts, so when you inevitably Google your symptoms, you’re not being lied to. “I get many comments about what patients read on the internet,” he says. “Unfortunately, I never get the question as to whether the resources they used are even a trustworthy source of information. Information is important, but accurate and reliable information is far more important.”

What should I work on before my next visit?

The time between visits shouldn’t be wasted, Young says. Asking your doctor what areas of your health you need to work on sets up a conversation about your overall health that every patient should have. “Instead of being in a reactive position about what is going on, preventive care requires that we take control of our health before we get sick,” he says.

What can I do to prevent this from happening again?

Getting over your sickness is great, but what would be better is to make sure you don’t suffer the same problem again, Young says. While many doctors will inform patients of preventive measures unsolicited, it’s always a good idea for patients to bring it up. “Whether it’s years of eating fatty foods or no exercise leading to hypertension, heart disease and diabetes, I can’t emphasize enough the importance of being proactive with your health before you reach that point or before your medical condition gets worse,” he says. “Your doctor can help you strategize specifically in a way that will work for you.”

Why am I taking this medication?

Too often doctors expect patients to blindly trust their judgment when prescribing medications, Langan says. When patients ask why they’re being given a certain medication, it’s an opportunity for the doctor and patient to have an open conversation about treatment. “I want patients to understand what they are taking and why they are taking it,” he says. “I try to explain this routinely, but sometimes it is difficult to completely understand a patient’s perspective on their illness and medications. If they don’t understand, I want to know.”

What do you do for your personal wellness?

Engaging your doctor in a conversation about his health can give you an idea of what you should be doing in your own life, says Jack Der-Sarkissian, assistant chief of family medicine at Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center. “A physician who practices a healthy lifestyle is more successful in getting their patients to adopt healthy living,” he says. “A patient should be able to ask their physician about how he or she practices wellness, and a physician should be honest and open to the discussion.”

How many patients like me have you treated?

Having confidence in your doctor means you’re more apt to follow his or her instructions, says Jack Jacoub, an oncologist and medical director at MemorialCare Cancer Institute at Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center in California. Asking about their previous experience with your condition is a great way to ensure that you’re getting the best treatment you can. “Experience is critical in managing complex cancer cases,” he says.

Does my child really need an antibiotic for this?

Parents will often bring their child into the doctor’s office because of a cold and expect the physician to write a prescription for an antibiotic, even though it’s not necessary and will not cure a cold. This is not only careless, says Stan Spinner, chief medical officer of the Department of Pediatrics at Texas Children’s Hospital, but has also led to a rise in antibiotic-resistant bacteria. “Physicians often feel the need to prescribe an antibiotic to appease the parent,” he says. “Such a question from the parent will lessen the likelihood that an antibiotic may be prescribed for a condition that is likely to resolve on its own.”

What is the best way for me to lose weight?

Many people diet to lose weight, but it’s far more important to make long-term, sustainable changes that can help you keep the weight off and live longer, says Todd Pulerwitz, a cardiologist with ColumbiaDoctors, part of Columbia University Medical Center. “Generally, a diet is only a temporary goal or state of mind rather than a complete behavioral change for long-term success,” he says.

When should I come see you again?

Doctor visits shouldn’t be relegated to the times you’re sick, says Philip Werthman, director of the Center for Male Reproductive Medicine & Vasectomy Reversal in California. While women tend to be more proactive about their health, men should schedule regular appointments for checkups so they can be sure they’re living the healthiest life possible. “I wish the men would take preventive care more seriously and start seeing a doctor in their late 30s on a regular or annual basis, much like women see their gynecologists every year for a checkup,” he says. “They can then be empowered to make healthier choices in their lives and prevent diseases, while also giving the physician the opportunity to detect diseases before they become symptomatic.”

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10 Questions Doctors Wish Their Patients Would Ask originally appeared on usnews.com

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