Doctors should answer a patient's questions. Doctors should invite questions and ask patients to come prepared with questions. If a doctor does not know the answer to a question, he should volunteer to get back with the answer. Doctors should never minimize the importance of a question, no matter how trivial it may seem. Doctors should understand that a patient may be upset, may not understand what is being related to him, and may need time to compute the information being provided.
Doctors should make certain that patients fully understand what has been told them. Studies have shown that a patient's comprehension and retention of the issues discussed is unreliable - frequently forgotten and/or misunderstood. Patients should write down (or perhaps record) what the physician is saying and review these notes with him before departing, insuring comprehensive certainty. Even better, bring along a relative or friend. Four ears and two brains are far better than two ears and one brain - especially if the information is serious and complex.
Questions for the physician might include:
1) What are the risks/benefits of the prescribed therapy?
2) How successful has this therapy been? Are there other forms of therapy to consider?
3) How common is my problem?
4) If an invasive procedure - what are the chances of complications or death?
5) How many procedures (if a procedure is to be done) have you performed?
6) How many patients with my problem have you treated?
7) What is the followup for my treatment or procedure - how often may it have to be repeated?
There may be others, specifically targeted to the medical issue at hand. There may also be time constraints and, perhaps, another visit for questions and discussion should be scheduled.
Commendably, many physicians will have proactively covered these questions in their discussions
having anticipated the patient's appropriate concern. But if not, one should not be afraid to ask.
Remember - as the doctor is interviewing you, you are simultaneously interviewing him.