Inside: Take charge of your health and come prepared for your next visit with these 13 critical questions to ask a new doctor.
Have you been burned in the past by a doctor you didn’t feel was truly helping you?
Do you want to start a relationship with your new doctor on the right foot?
According to Julia Shrivastava, MD, a family medicine specialist at Scripps Clinic Del Mar, one of the best ways to form a good relationship with your new doctor is by coming to your appointment prepared with a list of your symptoms, medications and questions.
How to prepare for a doctor’s appointment?
The first thing you must know is that doctors have very little time to spend with patients. It’s important that you come prepared for your first visit to maximize the time you have and get the answers you need. Some ways to do this are:
- Bringing a list of current medications
- Bringing your medical records
- Coming prepared with a list of written down questions
- Being prepared to discuss only your most relevant symptoms and any research you’ve found
Coming prepared for your doctor’s visit will ensure that the visit flows more smoothly. It’s also important that you write down or print out your questions, rather than rely on memory.
It’s easy to get off track when discussing your health with a new doctor, so having a list of questions in front of you will help manage your time and make sure that you get all the answers you need.
In addition, if you’re not able to get through all of the questions during your visit, you can leave the printed out paper with your doctor and they can either call or email you with follow-up answers.
Without further ado, here are 13 critical questions to ask a new doctor. All of these questions were submitted from M.D.s.
13 Critical Questions to Ask a New Doctor (And Questions to Avoid)
- If I call for an urgent appointment, how likely am I to get a same/next day appointment?
- If I have a non-urgent need, how long does it typically take to get in?
- What hospital and specialty groups are you affiliated with?
- What happens if I’m sick and my regular doctor isn’t in? Will I be seen by a partner or a midlevel provider? What is the system for after-hours care?
- How does the office handle med refills? If I have an ongoing condition, how often am I expected to come in and be seen?
- If there is one aspect of your lifestyle that’s of crucial importance to you, this would be a good time to find out if it will be a problem with your new doctor, i.e. “What’s your policy on vaccinations?”
- If your doctor orders a test, then ask, “How will the test result potentially alter my therapy?”
- Why am I taking these medications? For many people, this may require your doctor to write you a list, but a patient should be able to see what medicines they take for what problem.
- What else can I do to give me the best chance to get well?
- Can you recommend any credible reading material or references?
- Are there any habits or other aspects of my lifestyle that I could improve?
- When is it a good idea for a patient of yours to seek a second opinion?
- What is my diagnosis or why do I have symptoms X, Y or Z?
In general, you should not leave the doctor’s office without an answer to this question. Sometimes the answer might not be obvious and there are several possibilities. It’s ok to treat a possible diagnosis sometimes, but it isn’t good is to walk out without a plan.
REMEMBER! If you’re not able to get through all of the questions during your visit, you can leave a print out with your doctor and they can either call or email you with follow-up answers.Disability Dame
Questions to Avoid with a New Doctor (According to a Doctor)
According to Dr. Rick VonderBrink at Tri-Star Health, you should avoid the below questions when meeting with a new doctor:
- You can ask where a doctor trained, but this information won’t necessarily be helpful. Some great physicians come out of lower-tier medical schools, and some awful ones come out of Harvard and Hopkins.
- Don’t ask what a doctor’s grades were in school or their class rank.
- You can ask about family and hobbies, but it will probably be a pretty superficial account.
- Don’t ask about politics.
- Don’t ask about a doctor’s deeply held beliefs, any more than you would ask another stranger about them on first meeting unless that belief is directly impacting your health.
Final Thoughts on 13 Critical Questions to Ask a New Doctor (And Questions to Avoid)
If you’re struggling with health issues, just know you’re not alone. These 13 critical questions to ask a new doctor will help guide you to the answers you need.
As intimidating as it can be, you’ve got to become your own health advocate. Your doctor will appreciate you coming to the appointment prepared and maximizing the use of their time. They know more than anyone else – a knowledgeable patient is a healthy patient.
What questions would you add to the list? Tell me in the comments!
For more tips on navigating the healthcare system, check out my chronic illness and disability hub.
Allie Schmidt is a rare disease advocate and disabled mom living with motor neuron disease. She founded Disability Dame in 2020 to provide tips to other moms living with disabilities and chronic illnesses.
In her spare time, you can find her traveling with her husband (she's been to 38 states and 16 countries!), watching reruns of Survivor, or tending to her near-constant sunburn from spending too much time outside. You can follow her adventures here.