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During Your Appointment

During your appointment, make sure to ask the questions you prepared before your appointment. Start by asking the ones that are most important to you.

To get the most from your visit, tell the nurse or person at the front desk that you have questions for your doctor. If your doctor does not ask you if you have questions, ask your doctor when the best time would be to ask them.

Understand the answers and next steps

Did You Know?

Medical schools teach medical students how to talk with patients because the schools know how important doctor-patient communication is for good care.

Asking questions is important but so is making sure you hear—and understand—the answers you get. Take notes. Or bring someone to your appointment to help you understand and remember what you heard. If you don’t understand or are confused, ask your doctor to explain the answer again.

It is very important to understand the plan or next steps that your doctor recommends. Ask questions to make sure you understand what your doctor wants you to do.

The questions you may want to ask will depend on whether your doctor gives you a diagnosis; recommends a treatment, medical test, or surgery; or gives you a prescription for medicine.

Questions could include—

  • What is my diagnosis?
  • What are my treatment options? What are the benefits of each option? What are the side effects?
  • Will I need a test? What is the test for? What will the results tell me?
  • What will the medicine you are prescribing do? How do I take it? Are there any side effects?
  • Why do I need surgery? Are there other ways to treat my condition? How often do you perform this surgery?
  • Do I need to change my daily routine?

Find out what you are to do next. Ask for written instructions, brochures, videos, or Web sites that may help you learn more.

Go to: After Your Appointment

Build Your Question List

Whether you have a health condition, have new medicines, need a medical test, or need surgery, here are key questions you can ask your doctor. The answers can improve your health.

Make your list now button

Watch Christina Cyphers’ Story

Christina Cyphers

Real patients and clinicians share why it is important to ask questions. Select here.

Other Helpful Tips

  • Explain your symptoms, health history, and any problems with medicines you have taken in the past.
  • Understand answers to your questions.
  • Let your doctor know if you are concerned about being able to follow your treatment plan.
  • Understand your treatment options.
  • Take notes or bring someone with you who can.
  • Ask questions that you think of during your visit.
AHRQAdvancing Excellence in Health Care