September 24, 2015

8 Essential Questions To Ask Your Doctor About A Diagnosis

By Erica R. Hendry

Diagnostic errors are common, costly and dangerous—and they exist at alarming rates, says Leslie Michelson, the chairman of Private Health Management and author of “The Patient’s Playbook.”

After our show on how to make sure you’re getting good medical care, Michelson sat down to offer specific questions you can bring up with your own doctor.  Print this page out and bring it to your next appointment!

By Leslie Michelson

Experts say missed diagnoses alone may cause 40,000 to 80,000 otherwise preventable deaths per year. And according to a 2013 Johns Hopkins investigation, some 80,000 to 160,000 patients suffer permanent injuries every year due to diagnostic error.

Getting a scary diagnosis can be emotionally overwhelming. While it’s not always easy, the best approach is to summon the courage to ask tough questions, do more research on your condition, and get additional expert opinions. It’s essential to do this before before agreeing to powerful therapies or surgeries, as diagnostic error isn’t just inconvenient and frustrating: When you are misdiagnosed, you run the risk of receiving unnecessary and potentially harmful treatments.

Here are 8 essential questions to ask your doctor about a diagnosis. You should supplement them with questions that are relevant to your specific circumstances.

  1. I understand that you believe I have this disease, but how confident are you in the diagnosis?
  2. Is there anything else could this be?
  3. Are there more tests that can be done to confirm this diagnosis?
  4. Was the lab test sample good/the imaging clear? Would it make sense to 
get a second read?
  5. Have you read all my medical records to get the full picture of my symptoms? Would it help if I went over them with you?
  6. You say I have an abnormal blood test/a lab abnormality and that we can treat it with medication. But is it possible that this is indicative of a bigger problem? Are there other tests we should be doing to rule out serious diseases?
  7. Before we move forward with treatment, are you confident we’ve explored all my options?
  8. I appreciate what you’re saying, and it sounds very serious. I’d like to get copies of my lab reports/imaging/medical records in order to get a second opinion.

Want more advice? Listen to Michelson and others offer insight during our full hour on how to be a better health advocate.


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