Family and Friends Health Care

5 Questions Your PCP Wants You to Ask

A Doctor Goes Over Details of a Case with the Patient while Sitting at a Round Table.

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When it comes to people and their primary care providers (PCPs), two things matter most: trust and respect. According to a recent study from Huron Consulting Group, 60% of consumers say they'd switch to another provider if it led to greater trust and more respect. These were more important to them than closer locations, shorter wait times or even lower costs.

So how do you build the level of trust and respect that you want from your doctor? In my experience, it takes communication. It starts with the very first visit. And it comes with time. Whether you are looking for a new PCP or just want to stay on the best terms with your current doctor, asking the right questions can make all the difference. Here are five questions I wish all my patients would ask me:

Where Can I Find Trustworthy Information Online?

The internet and social media make it easier than ever to access health information, check symptoms and learn about treatment options. When used wisely, this information gives you the knowledge you need to stay healthier over the long term. Unfortunately, a lot of what's out there is inaccurate, misleading, scientifically dubious or just plain dangerous.

Your primary care provider can help you cut through the noise by identifying which online health resources you can trust, and why. We can also teach you to use the good resources responsibly so that you don't accidentally give yourself a cancer scare every time you check your symptoms.

Would You Recommend This to Your Own Family?

This is a question every doctor should ask themselves when they prescribe a care plan because it encourages us to contextualize the situation in relatable human terms, not simply as a problem to be solved. Your doctor has likely already asked themselves this. Hearing them answer it out loud will help provide peace of mind.

What Questions Should I Be Asking?

You only have a short amount of time with your doctor and likely have a lot of questions. It's easy to forget one… and then remember it later while you're driving home. To minimize the chances of this happening, ask your doctor what questions you still need to ask. After all, they've almost certainly had this conversation before.

Do You Understand?

It's such a simple question, and yet it's one that many of us may not think to ask our doctors. When we go to see our PCP, we tend to look to them as the authority and place greater emphasis on understanding what they tell us. But doctors are human beings; sometimes we misread or mishear things. So it's just as important that we understand what you're telling us.

Asking your PCP if they understand prompts them to repeat back what you said. In doing so, the two of you can identify and clarify any misinterpretations, make sure that your definitions of terms align, and stay on the same page.

Should I Get a Second Opinion?

Some medical diagnoses change your life. I'm not just talking about serious and life-threatening conditions like cancer and heart disease. Even a common procedure such as a hip or knee replacement can significantly impact your quality of life.

When faced with such a diagnosis, one of the best actions you can take is getting a second opinion. There is really no downside. If the second opinion backs up your doctor's original recommendation, great! And if they suggest an alternate course of treatment, you will become more informed and empowered to make the right decision about your health.

If you're nervous that this question will offend your PCP, don't be. It is common practice for doctors to consult one another about serious and complex conditions. Getting multiple perspectives on your condition benefits us all.

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