Let me clear up a couple of myths regarding asking your physician questions about your health. Some people feel too afraid or intimidated but the truth is that we want you to ask questions! At least I do...but seriously, I think most doctors do. We want you to understand what's going on so you can take charge of your health.
Who is Your #1 Advocate?
You need to be the #1 advocate for your own health and you need all the information to make informed decisions!
Complete the health challenge at the end of this post to test your knowledge, identify questions you need to ask your physician, and make sure you are informed! Download this form to keep track of your key health information in one place.
Why Ask Questions?
We are a team!
We are a team working together and you are a valuable and essential member of that team. You must understand your health to actively participate in the team. I need you to make informed decisions that are right for you !
If you ask questions, you have more of a chance to understand everything you can about your health and wellness. The more you comprehend, the more likely you are to follow through with treatment. Usually, there are things you can modify in the environment (diet, exercise, sleep, self-care, etc..) that will assist in recovery so it's important to be fully informed.
How Can You Help Yourself If You Don't Know What's Going On?
When first meeting with a patient I ask about medications they take and ones they have used in the past. I find MANY people have no idea why medications are being prescribed and how the medication is supposed to help. How can you take charge of your health if you don't understand?
You Want Me To Do What?
If you don't understand why I am making certain recommendations, and you don't ask for clarification, how likely are you to follow all the directions?
Let me give you an example:
If I go to physical therapy and they tell me to do XYZ exercises 3 times each day but they don't explain to me WHY I need to do these exercises and HOW they will help me (or they explain it but I don't understand) than I am not likely to be as dedicated to doing my rehab.
The truth is: I don't want to do these exercises. They are boring and I don't have the time. If I can't visualize how they will help me then I might slack off after a few days (let's be honest... it's not might... I will definitely slack off).
"The doctor said to take them, so I take them."
Sometimes people take medications because of blind trust in their physician. They don't understand why the medications are being given to them but they take them. But often, people hear the plan, don't fully understand it, and don't end up following through because they don't comprehend why they are doing it.
Is it Disrespectful to Ask Your Doctor Questions?
Sometimes people feel intimidated to ask their physician questions. They worry asking questions may seem disrespectful or that you are questioning the doctor's judgment. No, you just want to understand what is going on!
I love when patients ask questions because that means that they want to be involved in their treatment. They care and desire to feel better. I want to partner with you in your care- not be a dictator telling you what you have to do.
I want you to:
- understand as much as possible about your health,
- why something may be happening,
- what it means,
- and what our plan is to make it better.
My Physician is Too Rushed to Ask Them Questions!
It can be intimidating when you want to ask questions but you know your doctor is rushed. Even though I am a physician myself, I feel pressure to be quick and not hold up the doctor with my questions. I know how stressful it is to run late and I don't want to contribute to messing up their schedule.
Before your next appointment, read 4 tips on how to get your questions answered in the doctors appointment. These tips will help you deal with an appointment that is rushed and increase the chance for you to get the information about your health that you need.
Challenge Time !
Here is My Challenge to You
- If you are on medication, go through each medicine and write down what it is for. What is it helping you with?
- If you have a medical diagnosis: Write down what it is, how it affects you, and what the plan is to treat it (or manage it).
After you complete this exercise you should have a good sense of how well you understand your health. If you identify areas that you are unclear about bring these questions to your next doctors appointment but make sure to read 4 tips to help you get your medical questions answered so you are prepared.
Part of Being Healthy is Understanding your Personal Medical History
Download this form to keep track of all the important details you need to know (and questions you need to ask) regarding your medical history and medications.
Let me know how well you did on the challenge! Did any of your answers (or lack of answers) surprise you? Did you identify questions you need to ask your doctor?
Dr. Melissa Welby is a psychiatrist practicing in CT. She is one of LinkedIn Top Voices and a healthcare blogger.
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Feedback is welcomed. To submit your questions, ideas, find resources, or to simply learn more about optimizing mental health visit her blog or email her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A version of this article first appeared here.
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