Learn all you can about your health problem
Good information—whether you get it from your doctor, the library, or a trusted website—is a powerful tool for helping you make wise health decisions. If you have a complicated problem or want to know more about your health options:
- Start by asking your doctor if he or she has information about your problem that you could take home. Some doctors offer DVDs, CDs, brochures, or reprints from medical journals. Some doctors can send links to video, websites, or other electronic information.
- If you need to make a decision about a treatment, find out how quickly you need to decide. You may have a few days, weeks, or months to explore your options.
- If your health plan has an advice line, call and ask if they can help you get more information.
- If you use the Internet to find health information, start by searching sources such as the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), or a national organization that represents a particular disease, like the American Diabetes Association or the National Cancer Institute. These sources present information that is based on the analysis of a large body of medical evidence. Your health plan may also provide health information on its website.
- If you have questions or concerns about the information you find, discuss them with your doctor.
How to ask questions
When you're not feeling well or you're worried about your health, it's harder than usual to understand what a doctor is saying.
When there's something you don't understand, ask questions. Don't know how to ask? Try one or more of these suggestions:
- "I want to make sure I understand. Would you go over that again?"
- "Tell me more about ... "
- "Could you explain that in a different way?"
- "Can you draw a picture for me?"
- "Can I read more about this somewhere? Do you have anything you can send me electronically?"
In the hospital
Being in the hospital can be even more stressful than an office visit. And stress makes it even harder to process information.
If you think of questions when the doctor isn't there, write them down so that you can remember to ask them. This is important because your doctor may come by only once a day. Any questions you forget to ask might have to wait until the next day.
It can also help to have a friend or family member in the room when you expect your doctor or another provider to visit. This person can help you remember things you wanted to ask and may think of questions you haven't thought of.