Most people have a lot of saved up questions to ask the doctor, but when they get into the exam room, they are not sure how to start, or what to ask, and sometimes the doctor seems busy or has other questions, so the concerns never get addressed. When your questions aren’t answered, your visit is not as rewarding, either for you or your doctor.

Prioritize Your Questions

Before the visit, write down your concerns or topics you want to discuss.

Look at your list.  What is most important?  What is not important?  Time with the doctor is usually limited, so you want to focus on the most important questions. If you can’t decide, give the list to the doctor.  He or she can usually find the most important concerns, or together, you can pick a couple of things to discuss. One of my patients gave me a list of 12 concerns, ranging from split fingernails to shortness of breath. We focused on the breathing problem since it was more serious; but if the shortness of breath were chronic and the split nails were new and more upsetting, we could have addressed them instead. What is important to YOU?

Remember that if you have medical problems, like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, or other chronic illnesses, your doctor will need to ask specific questions about how you are doing and coping, and about the medications you are taking. This will also take up time, so if you have several new complaints or problems, you might  need to schedule another appointment.

Bring Help

As people age, they are more likely to have more than one medical problem and be taking more medications. Hearing and vision may not be as good. Memory may not be as good. It is ALWAYS good to bring a relative or friend to the appointment. Four ears are better than two and the helper can take notes and go over the important details with you later. Having a family member is best, as they are already likely to want to understand how you are doing and how they can best help you.

The Bottom Line

People who ask questions and take an active role at office appointments are happier with their care and may have more improvement in their health than those who do not.

Guest blogger: NOMS Geriatrics and Internal Medicine Specialist, Georgia Newman, MD.  Dr. Newman is accepting new patients in Oberlin.  Learn more here:

Georgia Newman, MD