My doctor proposes a treatment plan and, at that moment, I have to decide whether or not I want this. I feel insecure, because I don't know exactly what the doctor is proposing and what the consequences are. When I indicate this, the physician simply says: “You do not need to undergo any treatment, we can just don't start treatment at all."
Well, what then? Having pain every day is not a solution either. Do I have a choice? The doctor tightens the thumbscrews with a friendly, “What do you want? Do you want it or do you not want it? It is your choice."
Choice? This is not life. So I decide to say yes to this treatment which the doctor says is the best option. He will know. He's the expert.
And then the appointment was finished and I was on my way home. A million questions raced through my mind. What did I say yes to? What are they going to do? When does it take place? How long does the recovery take? What are the risks? Why didn't I ask the these questions?
Often the questions arise when the meeting with the physician is already finished. They popup when you're in the hallway, or when you're drining home or even a week later.
Often the questions only come after the conversation with the doctor. Questions that come when we are in the hallway, or driving home, or only a week later. Then it is too late or not?
What questions can we ask our doctor and how do we find out the answers to questions we didn't ask?
It's never too late to ask questions. Make a list of the questions you still want to ask. Call the hospital or clinic department where the procedure will take place. Discuss the questions with the assistant (she can often already answer some of them). If necessary, the assistant will forward questions to the doctor or schedule a telephone appointment between you and the doctor (of course, costs will be charged for this).
Questions to ask the doctor:
- What does the treatment involve / What will you do? (Sometimes it may be better to ask, "Can you tell me the process of the treatment step by step?") Don't be upset if the physician refers you to a folder about the treatment. These folders have been specially prepared for the patients undergoing this treatment and contain a lot of information. If you still do not completely understand the treatment, please indicate clearly which part you do not understand.
- What are the risks? All treatments have risks. Be well informed so that you can make an informed choice.
- Will I get antibiotics beforehand? This is important to know. Antibiotics also affect your intestinal bacteria (intestinal flora). People who already have abdominal complaints can react very strongly to abdominal pain, diarrhea, etc. Most of these complaints can be prevented by taking a good intestinal supplements like probiotics. Start with the supplement two weeks in advance and continue until two till three weeks after finishing the antibiotics treatment. It is not necessary for a doctor to prescribe this supplemnet, but you can ask about it. Unfortunately, not all doctors see the benefit of this, although it is standard practice in some countries. Don't worry, you can get it yourself at a good drugstore or pharmacy. Let yourself be well informed about the correct supplement for your situation.
- What is my prognosis if I do not undergo treatment? Prognosis is: the prediction about the course of the issue (in this case: the pain). You always have the right to find a solution. You are also always entitled to a cooling-off period. Although many doctors do not give these and insist on an immediate decision. Here too, the following applies: be well informed.
- How long will it take before I notice the effect of the treatment? The doctor will likely answer with an average minimum-maximum period. But sometimes there is no clear answer, as the effect of the treatment can vary between greatly from person to person. It is also possible that the treatment is so new that there is not enough data available.
- How long is the recovery period? The doctor will probably also answer this question with an average minimum-maximum period. But here too it can happen that the recovery per person can differ so much that it is not possible to give a clear answer.
- Will you perform the treatment yourself? This is a matter of trust. Often there are several persons who can perform the treatment, sometimes not. You can always ask your physician to perform the treatment. As a result you may have to wait longer before it's your turn.
- Are there alternatives to this treatment? If so, what are the differences from the treatment you propose? Sometimes the answer to this question is no. Accept that.
- Where can I request a copy of my X-ray / MRI / scan etc.? Make sure you always request a copy of your scan or test yourself. You can take this with you to another specialists and (alternative) therapists. Usually you have to pay for these documents. Hospitals are allowed to share the conclusion or results, but they are not allowed to send private data (for example the scan itself). This has to do with the strict law on the protection of personal data. If you want another specialist to be able to see the test results, you will have to take care of that yourself.
- Is it possible that you send me a copy of the referral letter? Not every doctor will give permission for this, eventhough you are entitled to this. Stay friendly and polite. It is new for doctors that their patients are assertive and ask for insight into their own health records. If you don't get permission, no problem. Ask your GP.
- Can I read what you just wrote about me? Not every doctor will give permission, eventhough you are entitled to read this. Stay friendly and polite. It is new for physicians that their patients are assertive and ask for insight into their own health records.
If you are allowed to read, you can quickly check the conclusions that the doctor has made based on your story. It can happen that he or she did not completely understand you. DO NOT ask for explanation of all technical terms. The doctor does not have time to explain these to you.
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What questions should I NOT ask my doctor?
- Does it hurt? Pain is a sensation in your body that feels different for everyone. A doctor cannot predict how you will experience the treatment. No one can tell you how much something hurts. Pain is personal. You can indicate on a scale of 1-10 how intense the pain is you feel (where 1 is no pain and 10 is unbearable pain/the worst pain you can imagine). With this number you can determine how much more or less pain you have compared to the last time. However, it cannot be compared with the figure of others. A 7 to me can feel very different than a 7 to you. You better ask questions 5-7.
- What would you do if you were in my position? This seems like a good question to ask, but it isn't. Doctors are not allowed to answer this question. They can give you advise and will do their best to propose the best treatment plan. But they should not influence you with their own opinion.
- Can I get a second opinion? This is a trust issue. If you ask for a second opinion, you are actually indicating that you do not trust the judgment of your current doctor. While as a patient you sometimes just want more information about possible alternatives.
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