The 3 Most Important Questions You Can Ask Your Primary Care Physician

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Your primary care physician is one of the most important players in your healthcare team. This is the doctor who handles most of your general health concerns and is usually responsible for referring you to the correct specialists and coordinating your care. However, most people don't get a lot of time with their primary physicians, and when you're sick or busy, it can be easy to forget important questions in the limited time that you do have. However, it's very important to make good use of the time you have with your primary care doctor. Asking these questions can help ensure that you get the answers you need to help you take charge of your own health.

What Should I Expect From This Treatment?

There's often a disconnect between what the doctor expects a treatment to accomplish and what the patient expects a treatment to accomplish. It's important to clarify this so that you know what you're in for. How long will it be before a medication starts making you feel better? Will physical therapy for a broken bone restore your mobility completely, or only partially? Are side effects likely from injections? If so, which ones are most likely?

Asking this questions can help ensure that your expectations are realistic for your treatment. You don't want to panic over an unexpected side effect, but you do want to know which ones are serious enough to warrant a call to the doctor. You should also know about how long it should take before you start feeling better so that you and your doctor can look at alternatives in a timely manner if the original treatment doesn't work. And you don't want to have unrealistic expectations for your recovery.

Where Can I Find Good Medical Information Online?

Thanks to Google, patients are more informed about their own health status and medical treatments than ever before. A majority of patients are using that information — one survey found that 60% of adults had looked up health information online at least once.  And that's a good thing—or it can be when you get the right information. But not all health-related information on the internet is valid, and for someone without a medical degree, it can be tough to determine the difference between good information and information that sounds good but isn't.

Your doctor, however, does know the difference between good sources of health information and bad ones. Doctors have the benefit of both their own medical training and research and the experience of treating patients that come in armed with good or bad information from various sources. They'll be able to give you an idea of where to look and where not to look if you're wanting more information. Your doctor may be able to direct you to resources that address a specific condition or concern of yours as well as to sites that provide good general health information.

What Should I Do Between Now and My Next Appointment?

It's unfortunately easy to get into the habit of only thinking of your health when you're sick. But in reality, health is an ongoing thing, and if you treat it as such, you'll find that you're actually sick less often.

That means meeting with your doctor regularly, even when you aren't sick — preventative medicine is as important as treatment for specific conditions. It also means that between appointments, you should be working on lifestyle changes that will keep you healthier overall.

Asking what to do between this appointment and the next one gives your doctor the opportunity to discuss with you how certain changes, like losing weight, giving up cigarettes, or increasing your physical activity, can benefit your general health. Your doctor may also have suggestions for how you can work on specific conditions that you're prone to — cutting out caffeine may prevent those recurring migraines, for example. It's also a good opportunity to discuss when your next doctor's appointment should be. Do you need a followup on your current treatment in a few weeks, or a well checkup six months from now?

Don't wait for your physician to tell you what you want to know — if the doctor doesn't bring it up, you should feel free to come right out and ask. Asking the right questions empowers you to take control of your health and helps you come away from the appointment with useful knowledge in addition to a prescription or treatment plan. To learn more, contact a primary care physician at a medical service like Rural Health Services Consortium Inc.