Make your doctor a partner in your health care.
Questions to ask your doctor
You want to trust your doctor, and you’ll get better care when you are an engaged patient. Build a good relationship with your doctor by sharing information, asking questions, and listening carefully.
Once you have a list of doctors you are interested in, take some time to learn more about their skills and training, as well as the quality of care they provide. When choosing a doctor, consider several sources of information, including recommendations from your friends, rather than relying solely on a doctor-rating website, which can be biased.
To help you choose a new doctor, here are some questions to determine if they’re a good fit for you. You can find answers to these questions on the doctor’s website or by speaking with the doctor and their office staff directly. [Download these questions as a printable PDF.]
- How long have you been in practice?
- What is your medical specialty? Do you have more than one?
- Are you currently board certified in the specialty I am looking for?
- If you are board certified, which specialty board certified you?
- How do you keep up with advances in medicine?
- Which hospitals do you use? Are they accredited?
- What are your office hours?
- Who covers for you when you are unavailable?
- How long does it usually take to get a routine appointment?
- How long is the typical office wait?
- What are your policies about payment if I need to cancel an appointment?
- Does the office send reminders about prevention tests?
- Do you or someone in your office speak the language that I am most comfortable using?
- Do you (or a nurse or physician assistant) give advice over the phone for common medical problems?
- Do you perform routine X-rays and laboratory services in your office?
- Do you survey your patients? How do you use the survey results?
In addition to these general questions, you may wish to ask your doctor about the specialty care you need. For example, if you are considering a surgical procedure, you may want to ask how frequently the doctor performs this procedure, what the potential risks are, and what the recovery involves.
Expand Your Knowledge With These Resources
For more information on health care quality issues, general health care topics, or how to be a good patient, visit the websites of one of the following expert organizations:
- Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality : The lead federal agency charged with improving the quality, safety, efficiency, and effectiveness of health care for all Americans
- AARP: Leads positive social change and delivers value to people aged 50 and over through information, advocacy, and service
- Consumer Reports Advocacy: An independent, non-profit testing and information organization serving consumers, which is a branch of Consumers Union
- DocInfo: A website for verifying a doctor’s license and professional background information, provided by the Federation of State Medical Boards
- Mayo Clinic: Offers easy-to-understand answers about diseases and conditions
- Medicare.gov: Provides general information about doctors, clinicians, and groups enrolled in Medicare
- WebMD: Provides valuable health guidance, tools for managing one’s health, and support to those who seek information
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