Doctor Relationship Part 2

Asking the right questions...

Last week, we began discussing the need for fostering trust in provider relationships. We started with honesty. We’re going to continue this week by discussing questions you need to ask your providers. This is a much more individualized thing, so we’re going to speak at a higher level, rather than prescribing a particular set of questions.

The most important questions you should ask are clarifying ones for your physician. For example:

  • What is the expected outcome of a particular lab test? What things will this test show you? Is the outcome of this test more testing? Are there other tests that would make this one more illuminating?  

  • What does this treatment aim to address? What are some alternatives? What are some side effects to be aware of?

  • Is this a firm diagnosis? Are there other specialists to see regarding this care plan?

  • How new is this drug? Are there generic alternatives?

  • What should I expect from this new drug? How long should it take before I start seeing the results?

  • What level of symptoms are problematic? What point do I call you to intervene?

  • Does this treatment interact with the other treatments I’m on? Are there foods I shouldn’t eat while taking this? I like wine, should I refrain from alcohol for the duration, or is a glass or 2 at one go ok?

  • What is the treatment plan? How many times a day do I need to do this? Why this treatment and not something else? What makes this the best plan?

The second set involve questions you should ask yourself:

  • Is this worth getting a second opinion?

  • Are there typically significant costs involved with this kind of treatment?

  • What marginal value does this treatment give me?

  • How intrusive is this treatment plan? How likely am I to be compliant?


Based on the answers to those kinds of questions, and your commitment to honesty, you should have some idea of what the path forward is. Whether this particular trip to the office is a well visit or something else entirely, it will help you figure out a way forward... IF you’re proactive in understanding both illness and treatment. Imagine cultivating a collegial relationship with your doctor and how that would impact your care. Wouldn’t that make you feel better about going to the doctor and way better about the relevance of their suggestions? I know having that understanding has helped me connect with my doctors on a different level.

Consider how that would look for YOU, rather than having Dr. Pushover or Dr. My-Way-or-the-Highway. What does your ideal relationship look like? Are there more questions you can ask of your doctor that would make you feel more comfortable with her plan to treat you? Don’t be afraid to ask those questions - the doctor, ideally, wants you to be better as much as you do.