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Are You Asking Your Doctor The Right Questions?

Research shows that individuals who have a good relationship with their health care team receive better care and are happier with their care(1).  Patients and families who engage with a health care advocate are more likely to ask relevant questions that may help reduce the risk of errors and hospital admissions.  Your health depends on good communication. It is extremely important for seniors  to keep their family members in the loop about all presenting medical information. Do also remember that as we age it is very important to assign someone as  your  Power Of Attorney , in order to avoid complications, in the case you are deemed incapable of making a health care decision.

Healthy  living includes attaining true knowledge that helps you maintain a new lifestyle change. Being a nurse for over 15 years in a multicultural city, I have  seen many people receive inadequate care due to a  lack of understanding, or what I like to call, a lack of health literacy.  Today I want to share some healthcare information to help increase your total potential of staying healthy.

It has been cited that doctors , on average, interrupt patients 18 seconds into an office visit (2). Given this fact, patients who seek to maximize their healthcare experience must learn how to speak so that doctors will listen. There are three communication skills that when applied to a doctor’s visit can increase  the odds of having  your physician  hear your true concerns,  and will help you / your family to have a better understanding of your problem. 

  1.  Prepare what you will say.                          

  2.  Know what you would like to achieve

  3. Formulate collaborative questions.

The first step in effective communication is to prepare your message. Successful preparation for a doctor's visit requires identification of your primary health concern, symptoms relevant to this concern, and the length, frequency, and intensity of each symptom. Stick to the facts, keep focused on what you believe to be relevant data, and keep your explanation short.

Your Doctor Wants Your Questions: Doctors know a lot about a lot of things, but they don't always know everything about you or what is best for you. Your questions give your doctor and health care team important information about you, such as your most important health care concerns.

Quality health care is a team effort.  With the introduction of Health Care Advocacy, one can be provided with the resources that can help individuals and community health partners work towards a common goal. Having more knowledge contributes towards having true health and wellness, and you play an vital role in this process. One of the best ways to communicate with your doctor and health care team is by asking the right questions, bearing in mind that you have limited time during your medical appointments.  You will feel less rushed if you prepare your questions before your appointment.

A simple question can help you feel better, let you take better care of yourself, or save your life. The questions below can get you started. 

  1. What is the test for?

  2. How many times have you done this procedure?

  3. When will I get the results?

  4. Why do I need this treatment?

  5. Are there any alternatives?

  6. What are the possible complications?

  7. Which hospital is best for my needs?

  8. How do you spell the name of that drug?

  9. Are there any side effects?

  10. Will this medicine interact with medicines that I'm already taking?

Your diagnosis is what your doctor thinks is your health problem. Most times your doctor will make the diagnosis based on what you say your symptoms are, and the results of a physical exam, lab tests, and other medical tests. If you're facing a difficult medical decision, it is a good idea to bring  a Health Care Advocate  with you who can help you take an active role in your care. Having an advocate at medical appointments or during a hospital stay can ensure that you and your family get and understand the information you need to manage your health.


 Michelle Smith is your Healthcare Advocate and Nurse.  Founder of  JA Smith Nursing and Consulting Services, Michelle is an award-winning Registered Practical Nurse, with 15 years experience in both acute and community health care settings. Michelle provides cultural diverse services essential for navigating the health care system, and  for adapting to lifestyle changes to help you be at your best with new or chronic illness management.  For more information on how a healthcare advocate can help you please visit us


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