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Top 9 Questions to Ask Your Primary Care Provider

Updated on March 8, 2020
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Caitlin Goodwin DNP, RN has 14 years of nursing experience and is a collegiate educator.

So you've just received a diagnosis...

While it feels like everything ends with your confusing diagnosis, it’s just the beginning. When being diagnosed with any chronic medical condition, it feels scary at first but it will be a major part of our life.

Don’t walk away without answering these questions to take charge of your health!

The Questions

  1. How will this disease impact my daily life? Make sure you are specific about understanding your medical condition or disease. While learning about the condition is essential, actually understanding how it will impact you and your family will help you to begin to plan for the next steps.
  2. What are the different options for treatment? If you are only offered one option, ask for alternatives. There is never just one course of action so make you understand all the choices.
  3. What are the risks, benefits, and alternatives of each medical treatment? In some cases, watch and wait or lifestyle changes can be ideal. In others, it can be dangerous.
  4. Are there any alternative therapies or lifestyle changes that you can improve my condition?
    • Lifestyle choices involve making a change to the life you are living to pursue health. Life improvements include quitting smoking, decreasing alcohol consumption, or increasing activity levels can improve a variety of illnesses.
    • Therapies like counseling, physical therapy, and massotherapy (massage) have proven overall health benefits. These therapies and lifestyle changes may have significant benefits to one’s quality of life.
  5. What are the tests that you are ordering today?
    • Lab draw orders can be confusing. Make sure you understand what each test is and why it is done.
    • Ask if you need to fast before getting your blood drawn. This means no food or drink (except water) for 8-12 hours prior.
  6. When and how will we get the results?
    • With the explosion of electronic charting, you can quickly review most lab and imaging results on your smartphone. You receive medical information instantaneously on your mobile device. Make sure you understand how to have a conversation with your provider to understand those results.
    • If your family member would prefer a phone call or face-to-face appointment, it is completely reasonable for that.

What does this mean?

Picture this. You have felt lousy for the last couple of days. Your nose is running, your throat is aching, and you have a low-grade fever. You're at your physician's office waiting for your flu swab to come back and want to make sure you understand what is happening.

  • Is there anything I can do to help me feel better quickly?
  • What symptoms mean that this is worsening?
  • What medications or treatments will best help me?

What comes next?

While medical professionals get into the business to help patients, sometimes we forget exactly how vulnerable being sick feels. We hear medical terminology every day and sometimes we may explain things in a way that is confusing.

Ask questions and make sure you're comfortable with the answers. After all, it's your health!


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