Questions To Ask Your Doctor 

A doctor listens attentively while taking notes of what her patient is telling her. She is wearing a stethoscope and writing with pen on a clipboard. The patient is a middle-aged woman her glasses, and her back to the camera.

Questions To Ask Your Doctor

A visit to your doctor can be a challenging experience. Many doctors have jam-packed schedules; meaning they may not have as much time as they would wish to discuss issues in detail with their patients. As a patient, you may not think to share all the information your doctor needs, or remember all the questions you wanted to ask until after you leave the office.

A hallway in the hospital with windows to outside facing on the left, and windows into rooms facing on the right. There are 5 woman leading up against the walls, presumably doctors in training while another older-looking female doctor peers into the room windows.

Whether you have already been diagnosed with a liver disease or are visiting your doctor with symptoms that you are hoping to have explained, it is essential that you take charge of your health and wellbeing—providing accurate information to your doctor or health care provider and making sure that you understand the information they give to you.

The following are tips from the “How To” Health Guide on questions to ask the doctor, how to get the most out of each appointment and how to ask for a second opinion.

What to say

Before you see your doctor, make a list of the following information:

  • How long have you had each of your symptoms? When did your first notice them?
  • How do you feel over a 24 hour period? (I.e. what times of day do you feel most of your symptoms? After meals? During specific activities?)
  • List all of the treatments/medications you’ve tried already and when you started/stopped them. How did they make you feel?
  • List all the medications you are currently taking, including prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, herbal remedies, supplements and others.

A doctor listens attentively while taking notes of what her patient is telling her. She is wearing a stethoscope and writing with pen on a clipboard. The patient is a middle-aged woman her glasses, and her back to the camera.

What to Ask

During your appointment, do your best to get the answer to the questions below. Don’t be afraid to take notes—there are so many things to remember—it’s easy to forget something that could prove to be vital. We recommend you invite a family member or friend to accompany you on your doctor visit to also take notes and help ensure you don’t miss any crucial information. As a courtesy, you can let your doctor know you are taking notes because the amount of information can be overwhelming and you would like to have something you can refer to later.

  • What do you think is wrong with me? What is my diagnosis? Do I need to have a/multiple test(s)? If so, when will I have the test(s)? What is the reason for the test(s)?
  • When and how will I get the results from my test(s)? What are my treatment options?
  • What are the next steps?
  • Does the hospital, clinic, medical centre, etc. have a social worker or patient advisor that can help me better understand next steps? Do you have any patient information sheets or brochures that I can read to educate myself?
  • Where can I get more information about my condition? Are there any lifestyle changes that I need to make?
  • What more can I do for myself to help improve my condition? Who should I contact/where should I go if I start to feel worse?

Three male doctors stand with their backs to the camera, holding an x-ray up to the light. Each doctor is wearing a different colour scrub, they are blue, green and white. The doctor on the left is pointing to something identified on the x-ray.

How to ask for a second opinion

A second opinion may help you learn more about your disease, gain a different perspective on treatment options and reassure you that you are pursuing the right treatment options.

Keep in mind that:

  • Many doctors are comfortable with patients seeking a second opinion, especially in the case of a serious disease diagnosis.
  • If you are nervous about asking your specialist to refer you to another specialist, then ask your family physician to make a referral to a second specialist.

The “How To” Health Guide is published by the Health Charities Coalition of Canada. Please feel free to download the entire guide from our website to learn more important information regarding understanding the health care system, managing your condition, paying for your medication, participating in a clinical trial, and asking for the support you need.

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