What to ask your doc?

A check list on what to ask your doctor and how to get the best out of your medical consultation

Doctors are wary of asking someone a simple question like "How are you?" in a social gathering. The reason is, the moment this question is asked , the person starts off with all his medical complaints. The doctor is definitely not interested in professional consultation in social get together.

Strangely enough, when the same person goes to a doctor’s chamber, he is not so forthcoming. Often the doctor has to ask probing questions to get the symptoms out of patient.

The result in both cases is dissatisfaction. It is so easy to blame the doctor. However, it stands to reason that if we want to get the best treatment we need to communicate all our problems to the doctor. This is further compounded by the most common complaint: that doctor does not give us time. At the same time, it is worth pondering whether you would like to consult a doctor who has all the time in the world, but no patient!

Checklist: Visiting a doctor for the first time

  • Make a note of your symptoms in chronological order. Make a note of any significant illness you might have suffered in past.

  • Also since some of the conditions may be hereditary, ensure that you have relevant details about your family history. Especially so when you feel someone in your contact might have suffered from a contagious disease.

  • Inform the doctor about any allergies to drugs or food.

  • A young lady must inform about her periods, or missing them. It is to ensure that in early pregnancy, the foetus does not come to harm.

  • A working youngster must inform doctor about occupation and nature of work. This is more relevant if the job involves working on computers.

  • Elder persons should make it a point to stick to description of their complaints. Elderly tend to digress, and it may cause doctor to lose attention. You may have retired, but doctor is very much in active service or practice.

Checklist: Visiting doctor for a follow up

Remember that practising doctors have good PR Skills, and are trained to make you feel that they remember minute details about you or your family. However, it is equally true that they are human and may not remember all details.

  • It is imperative that you maintain a file and carry it to the doctor. The file must contain all details of previous consultation, lab reports, and any advice given.

  • Tell the doctor if you feel symptomatically better or worse.

  • Did you notice any untoward effect of drug that was prescribed?

  • Discuss investigation reports if any with your doctor.

  • Tell the doctor honestly whether you took the full course of drugs or left them midway. Also, did you try any alternative medicine or diet.

Checklist: What to ask the doctor

  • Specific advice about diet, drugs, exercises.

  • Possible untoward effects of any drug that is prescribed.

  • Do not straightaway accept advice like control your diet, make lifestyle changes, manage stress, reduce weight. Ask specifically the question HOW? If you could do these by yourself, you would have done it.

When you are asked to come for a follow up visit:

  • Ask about any conditions which may warrant a follow up sooner than expected. You are entitled to know possible complications of any treatment/ procedure.

  • In case you are unable to come to hospital for any treatment, dressings, physiotherapy, due to any reason, ask the doctor if you can avail nursing care at home.

Doctors want you to get well fast. No doctor wishes his patient to suffer any complication. A little attention, a little checklist, a little preparation for Doctor’s visit, would help the doctor to give you best of treatment. Come to think of it, you, as well as your doctor, both deserve it!


  1. Sai Subramaniam says:

    Dear Mukul,

    Nice article. When a patient prepares for the doctor’s visit, it’s productive for both the patient and doctor. Many patients go unprepared and end up with incomplete information and understanding of the situation. This leads to more follow-up questions and visits thus wasting the time of doctors as well as the patients.

    Remember, a doctor has to meet the needs of 50-100 patients in a day and so many things going through their heads. We have to value their time. A check list is a good thing to have.

    Best wishes,

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