In my experience, I have noticed that often times, patients are not aware about many things regarding their health. They don’t know their diagnosis, they don’t bother to know the name of their doctor, and what they are being treated for and of course, details of their daily medications. Doctors are also treating conditions that should be referred to specialists. Medicine has evolved from one doctor treating all the medical conditions from gynecology to brain matters, to one where there are specific specialists for specific illnesses.
- What exactly is my diagnosis? This is the most important question you can ask while with the doctor. Your doctor must be able to tell you your diagnosis and explain what the problem is to you in simple terms you can understand. If you don’t understand the explanation, kindly ask them to explain again. If your doctor gets offended or is reluctant to explain the diagnosis to you, you are better off seeking a second opinion. If the doctor is not sure of the diagnosis, and is awaiting test results to be sure, he/she should be able to say so.
- What is your specialty? There are a diverse number of medical specialties, with doctors becoming experts in specific field of medicine. Your general practitioner (GP) is usually the first point of contact with the medical system. They have a broad knowledge of most medical conditions and can help you reach a diagnosis. Sometimes the GP can treat your illness and you won’t need a referral. Other times you need to see a specialist. Either way, when you are with your doctor, it’s important to know what his/her specialty is to ensure you are seeing the right doctor.
- What is the name of the drug are you giving me? It important you know exactly what drug is being prescribed by your doctor. This will help if you are seeing another medical practitioner or if problems like side effects or allergies occur. Nobody should be taking medicine they don’t know the name. Will you put any random oil inside your car? (palm oil, vegetable oil… after all they are all oil!)
- How does it work? After you have been told the name of the drug, it’s important to know how it works. Example some hypertension drugs work by making you urinate a lot. It important you ask so when you get home and you start going to the toilet more often, you won’t be alarmed.
- What are the side effects? Drugs have multiple side effects, some are major, some are minor. Your doctor should tell you the major side effect of any drug he is prescribing. Although the pitfall of this is that some patients, once they learn the side effects of medication, the attribute all their problems following the use of the drug to “side effects”.
- Do I need to see a specialist? This is a very important question. There are many illnesses that are outside the scope of your regular doctor. Even specialists refer to other specialists. Sometimes, patients don’t understand why they have to see another specialist after seeing me, but I have to explain to them… I am a heart doctor, I have minimal knowledge of pediatrics, gynecology, prostate issues, brain or kidney….… the list is endless!
- What are these tests supposed to show? When you are sent for investigations, please ask about what he doctor hopes to find in the results, that will also help you understand your illness better.
I hope these tips were useful, please remember you are responsible for your health, always ask questions.