- Tips and FAQs
- Questions for your doctor
Questions for your doctor
When receiving a new diagnosis or recommendation from your doctor, there are some general questions you may want to ask the doctor. Just remember the 5Ws and an H: “Who”, “What”, “Where”, “When”, “Why” and “How.” The chart below offers some general questions for your doctor using this framework. Organize your questions before your appointment so that you are more prepared.1-3
There may be additional questions you may need to ask based on your specific diagnosis or treatment. For example, a person diagnosed with diabetes or cancer may have questions specific to that particular disease.4-5 Or there maybe question about the side effects, effectiveness, or duration of a new treatment that has been prescribed.
|New diagnosis||New treatment|
|Who||Who usually gets this disease or
|Who usually gets the treatment?|
|What||What caused the disease or condition?
What is the short and long term
prognosis (likely course of disease)?
What are the signs and symptoms?
|What are my treatment options?
What are the risks and benefits of each
|Where||Where should I go to get medical
testing (if needed)?
Where can I get additional information
or a second opinion?
|Where will I be treated?
In an outpatient clinic?
In a hospital?
|When||When can I expect to see the signs and
symptoms from the disease (if
When will I have my next laboratory
tests, results, or medical visits related
to this diagnosis?
|When can I expect treatments to start
|Why||Why did I get the disease?
What were my risk factors?
Are any of the risk factors preventable
|Why do I need this treatment?
Why will the treatment help?
Why might someone consider delaying
or not having the treatment?
|How||How will the disease or condition
impact me over the long-term?
How is the disease or condition
|How well will the treatment work?|
At the time of a new diagnosis, you may receive a lot of information at once and it is normal to not understand everything right away. Medical information can be complicated and you should feel comfortable asking your doctor to repeat any answers during the visit, or later by phone or email. You may also request for the information in a different way, such as in a handout or fact sheet. The doctor may be able to provide other resources, brochures, or materials, or point you to credible sources of information online.6-7
Before you leave the doctor’s office, ask these 2 things:
- Will I need additional testing?
- Do I need to go see a specialist?
- Do I need to change my daily routine?
- Schedule a follow-up visit before you leave the office, or
- Mark on your calendar to call the doctor’s office to follow-up on results
It is important to understand your doctor’s recommendation for next steps in your care and make a note of these.8-9 You should follow up with your doctor:9
- If you experience any side effects or other problems with your medicines.
- If your symptoms get worse after seeing the doctor.
- If you receive any new prescriptions or start any over-the-counter medicines.
- To get results of the tests you have had.
- To ask about test results you do not understand.
- Talking with your doctor: A guide for older people—What can I ask? Getting information. | Initiative on multiple chronic conditions | National institute on aging [internet]. 2016 [cited 20 June 2019]. Available at https://order.nia.nih.gov/sites/default/files/2017-07/TWYD_508.pdf
- Before your appointment. | Agency for healthcare research and quality website. [internet]. 2012 [cited 20 June 2019]. Available at https://www.ahrq.gov/patients-consumers/patient-involvement/ask-your-doctor/questions-before-appointment.html
- Questions to ask your doctor. | MedicineNet website. [internet]. 2018 [cited 20 June 2019]. Available at https://www.medicinenet.com/questions_to_ask_your_doctor_-_general/views.htm
- Questions to ask your health care team | American society of clinical oncology website. [internet]. 2018 [cited 20 June 2019]. Available at https://www.cancer.net/navigating-cancer-care/diagnosing-cancer/questions-ask-your-health-care-team
- Type 2 diabetes – what to ask your doctor | MedlinePlus website. [internet]. 2018 [cited 20 June 2019]. Available at https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000217.htm
- The 10 questions you should know. | Agency for healthcare research and quality website. [internet]. 2012 [cited 20 June 2019]. Available at https://www.ahrq.gov/patients-consumers/patient-involvement/ask-your-doctor/10questions.html
- Talking with your doctor: What should I ask my doctor during a checkup? | National institute on aging: health information [internet]. 2017 [cited 20 June 2019]. Available at https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/what-should-i-ask-my-doctor-during-checkup
- During your appointment. | Agency for healthcare research and quality website. [internet]. 2012 [cited 20 June 2019]. Available at https://www.ahrq.gov/patients-consumers/patient-involvement/ask-your-doctor/questions-during-appointment.html
- After your appointment. | Agency for healthcare research and quality website. [internet]. 2012 [cited 20 June 2019]. Available at https://www.ahrq.gov/patients-consumers/patient-involvement/ask-your-doctor/questions-after-appointment.html