Suppose you are sick or you are already a patient and you need to see a doctor or general practitioner. What are good questions to ask him or her? These six questions.

Summary: six questions you should ask your doctor / physician
  • What do you think I have?
  • What are my options?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of those possibilities?
  • How likely are these risks and benefits?
  • What exactly is your opinion / advice based on; how sure are you?
  • Where can I find the information you give me now so I can read it at home?

 


The hesitant patient?

Unfortunately, not all patients ask themselves what questions they should ask their doctor prior to a visit. To what extent patients never do this and why this is so, I do not know. I haven't been able to find any research on this. Maybe it just doesn't occur to patients to think about this beforehand (just the thought of a visit to a doctor makes them nervous).

They may also think that the question is difficult to answer in a general sense. After all, doesn't it depend on the reason why you visit a doctor and which doctor you are dealing with what are good questions? "We'll see how the conversation goes..." they may think.

It remains to be seen whether patients would be wise to do this. Research shows that patients would like to be involved in their medical process. And additional patient involvement is also valuable for doctors. For example, the chance that a patient will adhere to medication advice is considerably greater in such a case. In general, the better informed a patient is and the more joint a medical decision is made, the better.

 

The general practitioner cannot do it alone

In the first instance, of course, the physician / general practitioner is the first person responsible to supervise this. The doctor is trained to do this, unlike many patients, has the level of training to see through things and does not know the fear that the patient may have about what is going on with him. And the doctor normally knows better which questions to ask:

For example, doctors are trained not to ask the questions: "Have you understood?" but the better question: "What is the most important thing you take out of this conversation?

 

Also ask questions as a patient

But that's not enough. A good (medical) conversation also requires input from the patient. After all, the doctor can never be completely sure of what a patient understands if the patient keeps quiet. Because of this, a doctor can overlook things or even wrongly judge things too one-sidedly. The basic idea: make good decisions in collaboration (MAGIC). For this it is necessary that the patient also asks questions.

And contrary to what some people think, this is something for which a number of general tips can be given. This does not depend entirely on the possible condition of the patient.

 

Starting point: three questions to ask your GP

More and more countries have already embraced the "Ask three questions" campaign. These include England and Australia. This campaign states that as a patient you should always ask three questions. Three questions to remember or take with you when talking to a doctor or other healthcare professional (tip: put them in your phone if necessary).

They advise patients to ask doctors the following three questions:

  • What are my options?
  • What are the benefits and possible risks?
  • How likely are these risks and benefits?

 

But these three additional questions make it even better.

Partly due to the well-founded, research-based approach, this is an excellent initiative. But still the question remains - as with any approach, layout, overview or method - why this would work. Why not four questions, for example? Or five?

When I ask this during my workshops, I hear the following three additional questions in particular. Three questions which make the other questions even better:

 

  • What do you think I have?
  • What exactly is your opinion / advice based on; how sure are you?
  • Where can I find the information you give me now so I can read it at home?

 

The fourth question is probably for many patients the primary question for which they visit a doctor: what do I have? With the additional, often unspoken question: and how bad is it? Despite the fact that this question will often be asked automatically, it is better to put it in the question diagram. Because it is the first question, I always put it first on the list.

Because the fifth question focuses on the substantiation of the judgement and the sixth question is a process question, these are in my opinion also good supplementary questions. Especially question six is a good question. After all, the number of medical sites is enormous, but the reliability of the information / these sites is not always guaranteed. It is important if the patient is informed about this by the general practitioner.

 

  • What do you think I have?
  • What are my possibilities?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of those possibilities?
  • What does that mean in my situation? 
  • What exactly is your opinion / advice based on; how sure are you?
  • Where can I find the information you give me now so I can read it at home?

 

Are we complete with these six questions? Of course not. Some suggest ten or even more questions. But six questions is an easy number to remember. However, do you have a good question that you think should be on the list? Then we'd love to hear this question!