Exercising Your RIGHT to Ask Questions
Last updated: May 2023
I cannot begin to tell you how important it is to ask questions in your medical care. In fact, it may even save your life. In a report by John Hopkins, medical errors were found to be the third leading cause of death in the USA.1 But you can decrease the risk of medical errors happening to you.
Questions to ask about your diabetes care
One of the most powerful ways of doing this is exercising your right to ask questions about your healthcare. Asking questions sounds simple, but there are a lot of layers to it. You need to ask the right questions, to the right person, at the right time. No pressure! Take a closer look at how you can develop this skill.
Ask the right question
Let me just start by saying, there’s NO wrong question. Ever. So, don’t let your doubts about your question sounding ‘stupid,’ stop you.
Any time your provider recommends a procedure or test, good questions to ask are:
- What are you looking for with this procedure?
- Are there other ways to get the same information?
- Are there risks to this testing?
- What are the potential results and how will that change my care?
Hint: If the answer is the procedure will give you more information, but not necessarily change the course of your care, it may be a good time to dive deeper with your provider to determine if this is really something you need to do.
Additionally, including your medical history within your question always gives it more weight. Your provider sees a lot of people. And, although it’d be nice to feel that they remember every detail about you, it’s easy for things to get overlooked. Here’s an example: “Since I had that heart attack a few years back, do we need to change my blood sugar goals?” It gives your provider more to work with and may jar them into reviewing your medical records a little closer.
Finally, adding medical lingo to your question, like “risk vs benefit,” “invasive,” or “safety,” can trigger more of a response in medical professionals. This is a language we’re used to hearing. Something as simple as, “I’m worried about the safety of this procedure. It sounds pretty invasive. Are there other options?” may catch our attention more readily.
Ask the right person
It’s so important to understand who you’re talking to when you ask questions. There are a number of layers in the medical field. And, often, the people you come into contact with the most, have the least amount of training. For example, a medical assistant at your doctor’s office, or a pharmacy technician at your pharmacy. While this person may be fantastic at the work they do, they don’t have the same depth of knowledge or training as nurses or pharmacists (respectively). When you ask a question, make sure you direct it to the person with the highest skill set in that area. A question about medications really needs to be in the hands of the pharmacist.
Ask at the right time
Any time is the right time to ask a question. Literally, there’s no wrong time to ask a question or clarify something that seems confusing or unclear. Beyond that, here are five great times to ask a question:
- When something doesn’t feel right
- You don’t understand what’s going on
- When something doesn’t seem logical (this is a big one—sometimes it can be intimidating to ask a question when you don’t have a medical background. But the truth is, if it doesn’t seem logical, you’re probably on to something)
- There are changes in your health, like a hospitalization or a new diagnosis
- You have a new lab, test, or procedure results
Trust your gut
Questions are not about putting someone on the spot. They’re about getting on the same page as your medical team. They’re for developing an ability to weigh risk vs benefit. The best thing you can do in asking questions and protecting yourself in the medical world, is to trust your gut. Believe in yourself enough to follow that instinct. And, exercise your right to ask, ask, ask your questions.
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