Doctor Reputation

5 Patient Questions You Should Answer, Even if They Aren't Asked

5 Patient Questions You Should Answer, Even if They Aren't Asked

When a patient comes in to see you, it is usually for a specific problem that they may be experiencing, such as abdominal pain, flu-like symptoms, or another issue. However, most patients, from fear of hearing the truth or fear of being lectured, fail to ask doctors questions related to their health. If a patient comes to you looking for a solution, it is important to include him or her in the conversation that you, as a doctor, would have with yourself. Many patients do not come prepared with a list of questions ready to go, so here is a list of 5 patient questions that must be addressed, even if they aren’t asked.

1. What is my diagnosis and what are the different treatment options available?
In today’s day and age, most patients will have likely googled their symptoms before coming into your office. Therefore, even though they may not say it out loud, consider asking the patient if they have done any research on their own and what they have found. Let them know that even though they may be a little bit informed about their condition, you can offer them better insight into their diagnosis as well as a personalized treatment plan. Moreover, let them, through their own words, share with you their story. Talk to him or her about the different treatment options available and provide them with written materials such as pamphlets or website links that best explain their medical condition, as well as the benefits and risks of different treatment options. Most important, provide them with trustworthy internet resources for health-related information. “I get many comments about what patients read on the internet. Unfortunately, I never get the question as to whether the resources they used are even a trustworthy source of information. Information is important, but accurate and reliable information is far more important” said Michael Langan, internal medicine physician.

2. What can I do to improve my condition?
Nowadays, countless diseases are tied to lifestyle choices – diet, exercise, smoking, drinking, and more. While a lot of patients may just want medications to help them cope with their medical conditions, there are also patients that want to be more involved in their care but they do not know what to do. Therefore, educate your patients by guiding them to better understand and manage their conditions. Ensure that they are proactive in their health and that they schedule regular appointments for check-ups. “I wish that men would take preventive care more seriously and start seeing a doctor in their late 30s on a regular or annual basis, much like women see their gynecologists every year for a checkup. They can then be empowered to make healthier choices in their lives and prevent diseases, while also giving the physician the opportunity to detect diseases before they become symptomatic” said Philip Werthman, director of the Center for Male Reproductive Medicine & Vasectomy Reversal in California.

3. What can I do to prevent my condition from reoccurring?
While it is your responsibility as a doctor to inform patients of preventative measures, it is equally important that you stress the importance of such measures in disease prevention. “Whether it’s years of eating fatty foods or no exercising leading to hypertension, heart disease and diabetes, I can’t emphasize enough the importance of being proactive with your health before you reach that point or before your medical condition gets worse. Your doctor can help you strategize specifically in a way that will work for you” said Justin Young, physician. Talk to your patients as a life coach. For instance, smoking is a major risk factor for heart disease. If you have a patient who is a smoker and they have high blood pressure or blocked blood flow, shift the responsibility towards them in acknowledging their role in maintaining a healthy lifestyle and ensuring their own recovery.

4. How many patients, like myself, have you treated?
When it comes down to it, a patient wants to know that their specific medical condition is not unique and that others have also gone through what they are going through. Most importantly, they want to know that you have treated similar cases and came up with positive results. Therefore, consider talking about the previous experiences of other patients, common treatment options to consider, possible side effects, and more. Try using common terminology so that the patient will understand you and let them know about what type of outcomes they can expect. Recommend that he or she give you a chance to work together and come up with a solution that is in their best interest. Offer helpful advice but remember that the final word rests with them.

5. How much will this cost me?
Healthcare is rather expensive and unfortunately, you may not be entirely aware of a patient’s total expenses due to their need for different tests, medication prescriptions, as well as treatments. For this reason, make sure to discuss insurance coverage with each patient and determine what expenses will and will not be covered by their insurance. It may even be helpful to refer patients to an administrator or staff member who can sit down with them and identify medically-related costs before they commit to a certain course of action.

Building solid doctor-patient relationships takes time, commitment, and trust. Patients seek doctors who will listen to their needs, respect them, and provide them with quality care. While every decision that a patient makes come from their own viewpoint, a lot of times patients will rely on your insight and advice to improve their health outcomes. Make sure that you answer all of their questions and concerns - no matter how small they might be. Let them know they should not be hesitant in asking questions about anything that they do not understand. Additionally, allow them to jot down notes or record the conversations about their diagnosis and treatment, the names of medications they should be taking, a list of side effects that require immediate medical attention, as well as the names and contact numbers of specialists.

In order to avoid any misunderstandings, at the end of each visit, ask the patient if they understand what they have been told. Clarification of any questions or important details may alter their choice of therapy or timing and even close the gap between what they want and what they receive. “Patients are the sine qua non of health care. Not without which there is no purpose of spending all this time, money and effort. Patients are the most affected by the success or failure of the medical team. Patients hold the ultimate responsibility of selecting the right team members, determining the primary objective based on their lifestyle and values, adhering to the treatment or recovery plan, and persisting, enduring until the team has reached the end of their work” – Donna Cryer, CEO of CryerHealth.

As a doctor, you can give the best advice and treatment available; however, this is not worth anything if your patients are not willing or they do not know how to follow through. If you advise a patient to exercise more, ask them how they plan to work it into their busy schedule. If you ask a patient to eat healthier foods, ask them what types of foods they plan on buying. In other words, by asking and answering their questions, you can encourage patients to actively think about their diagnoses, treatments options, and recovery plans. The degree to which a patient understands what is covered during their visit impacts their likelihood of a positive outcome. “It’s important for doctors and other medical providers to listen to the most important member of the health care team, the patient. After all, there is no bigger stakeholder. Involving the patient in the decision making process is essential, to both better the patient outcome and improve patient experience” – Kevin Pho, primary care physician and founder of KevinMD.