According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, asking questions to your healthcare providers leads to better care and enhanced trust, safety  results.

Ten questions that they recommend:

  • What is the test for?
  • How many times have you done this procedure?
  • When wil I get the results?
  • Why do I need this treatment?
  • Are there any alternatives?
  • What are the possible complications?
  • Which hospital is best for my needs?
  • How do you spell the name of that drug?
  • Are there any side effects?
  • Will this medicine interact with medicines that I’m already taking?

Many people do not ask questions for fear that they will be perceived as a nuisance or that they will get “on the wrong side of the doctor”. Others simply do not know what to ask- especially when under pressure.

Yet,according to Dr. Jerome Groopman, a researcher on how doctors think, “Doctors desperately need patients and their families and friends to help them think.  without their help, physicians are denied key clues to what is really wrong.  I learned this not as a doctor but when I was sick, when I was the patient”. Doctors see so many patients in a day (as many as 30-40 with appointments every 10-15 minutes), that sometimes they are performing by rote.  Asking questions disrupts this automatic behavior and compels the healthcare provider to focus on you.

Stress your family history and significant past and current medical history when seeing a physician.  This will give the doctor ideas on additional ways to view your current symptoms. Don’t expect test results to show what your problem is because the only results obtained are the ones for which tests are ordered and performed (which might not be the case if a particular illness is not associated with your symptoms).

Talking about tests, do not get treatment for one abnormal test result.  The doctor should be treating you and not the laboratory reports.  Bear in mind that a laboratory test may be in error or that it may vary according to your diet, or current activities.  Have any abnormal test repeated.  If still not satisfied, ask your doctor to send the specimen to a different laboratory for evaluation or confirmation.

Achieving better health is a team effort and you as the patient need to play a pivotal role. No one knows you better than you and communicating facts and concerns is important.  A good start to doing this is by asking questions.

You may get additional information on how to take a more active role in your health in “Power to the Patient: The Medical Strategist” at or through this website with bonuses.