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Write down questions and take them with you when you see your doctor.

 Write down questions and take them with you when you see your doctor.
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Questions to ask your doctor

8-minute read

Key facts

  • It’s ok to ask questions about your healthcare.
  • You may have questions related to your symptoms, health problems or diagnosis.
  • You may have questions about a test, scan or procedure.
  • You may have questions about your treatment or medicines.
  • Write down or print your questions and bring them to your appointment.

Asking questions

You can get more out of your healthcare if you’re well informed about any treatments, medicines or tests that your doctor or other health professional recommends.

Asking questions about your health and healthcare means that you can understand the options and make the best healthcare decisions for you. This is known as health literacy.

This page gives you some questions to ask to help you get the best health outcomes.

You can print or write them down and take them with you when you see your doctor or other health professional. Add your own questions as well so you don’t forget them.

It’s also a good idea to have a list of any medicines you take.

You could ask a friend or relative to come to your appointments to help you remember the information. Bring along a notebook and pen too.

Questions about health problems

  • What is the name of the condition?
  • Is it known by any other names?
  • Could you write it down?
  • How serious is this condition?
  • How long will it last?
  • What causes it?
  • Can I pass it on to other people?
  • Is it likely to get worse? Or is it likely to get better?
  • Do I need treatment? If so, what is it?
  • Do I need to see any other health professionals, such as specialists, physiotherapists, dietitians or dentists?
  • Is there anything I can do to improve it myself?
  • Are there support groups for people with this problem and how can I contact them?
  • Where can I get more information about this condition?

Questions about treatments

Treatments cover a wide range of things. Such as medicines (see below), medical implants procedures, physiotherapy, and lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise.

  • How effective is this treatment?
  • Is it likely to be successful for people like me?
  • What is the evidence for this treatment?
  • Is the treatment approved?
  • Are there any risks or side effects? Are side effects likely to be permanent?
  • How long will I need the treatment for?
  • Do I really need this treatment or implant?
  • Will the implant or device be permanent?
  • Are there other ways to treat my condition?
  • What happens if I don’t do anything?
  • Is there a clinical trial that I can go on?
  • How quickly do I have to start the treatment? Is it OK if I take some time to decide?
  • How much will the treatment cost?
    • Can I have a written estimate?
    • Will I have out of pocket costs, how much?
    • How long will I have to make the payments?
  • Will the cost be covered by Medicare, my concession or Veterans Affairs card or by private health insurance?

Questions about medicines

It’s a good idea to keep a written list of any medicines that you take.

Include over the counter medicines and health supplements like vitamins. Tell each health professional you see what medicines you’re on.

  • Why do I need this medicine?
  • What is the evidence for this medicine?
  • How long do I need to take this medicine?
  • Does the medicine have side effects?
  • What should I do if I experience side effects?
  • Are there any other medicines that I can take instead?
  • What will happen if I don’t take the medicine — will my health get worse?
  • When should I take this medicine — should I take it with food or drink?
  • Will it interact with any other medicines I take, including any vitamins, herbal medicine or other complementary medicine?
  • Can I drink alcohol while I’m taking this medicine?
  • Does the medicine need to be stored in the fridge?
  • If the pharmacist offers me a different brand of the same medicine (a generic medicine), is it ok to take it?
  • What should I do if I miss my regular dose?
  • Can I take this medicine if I am pregnant or breastfeeding?
    • Can it affect my ability to have children?
  • How much will it cost? Will the cost be covered by the PBS, my concession or Veterans Affairs card or by private health insurance?

Questions about tests

There are many kinds of tests you may need, such as blood tests, urine tests, x-rays and CT scans.

Some tests are simple and there are clear benefits to having them — such as an x-ray to find out if a bone is broken. But there may be disadvantages as well for you to think about.

Some tests, like mammograms, are screening tests and cannot be used to make a diagnosis. Other tests can help your doctor make a diagnosis.

It’s important that you know the reason for the test beforehand. These questions will help you discuss the pros and cons of a test with your doctor.

  • What is the test for?
  • How is the test done?
  • How often do I need to have the test?
  • What are the benefits and risks of having the test?
  • Are there any alternative tests?
  • How accurate are the results of the test?
  • What does an abnormal result mean?
  • What do I need to do before the test? Do I need to fast?
  • Can this test diagnose a problem or will I need further testing?
  • How much will the test cost?
  • Is it covered by Medicare, my concession or Veterans Affairs card or my private health insurance?
  • Will the test hurt, or take a long time?
  • How soon do I need to have the test?
  • How do I book in to have the test and what is the usual waiting period?
  • When and how will I get the results?
  • What is likely to happen next, after I have the test?
  • What happens if I don’t get this test?

If your doctor or other health professional tells you something that you don’t understand, don’t be afraid to ask them to repeat the information. You can also ask them to write the information down for you to read again later.

Resources and Support

Call the Medicines Line on 1300 633 424 for information on your medicines.

To understand more about blood tests and urine tests visit Pathology Tests Explained.

Find out more about medical implants and devices at the Therapeutic Goods Administration.

Visit Consumers Health Forum of Australia for more resources on understanding your own health.

ASK YOUR DOCTOR — Preparing for an appointment? Use the Question Builder for general tips on what to ask your GP or specialist.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: February 2023

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