Questions for Your Patients
With the complexity of today’s health
care, knowledge is the single most important tool practitioners
can give patients to ensure their safety. Those patients
who better understand their medical condition are empowered
with information that could prevent mistakes from happening
in their care.
As a practitioner, by posing the questions
below, you can gauge if patients and their care givers are
adequately informed. While you may know the answers to some,
by asking the patient the question, the answer will reveal
their knowledge of their medical condition. The questions
are also posed as open-ended requiring the patient to elaborate
as opposed to simply answering “yes” or “no.”
Practitioners who make a habit of asking
patients the following questions are helping to equip patients
with the knowledge that can keep them safe.
- What questions are on your mind? Take
the time to ask patients if they have any questions or
concerns. Patients may seek information from the Internet
and other sources that may differ from your advice. Discussing
these differences can give the patient clearer understanding
and enable the patient to make better decisions.
- What medications are you on? Ensure
patients tell you every medication, vitamin, and supplement
that they are taking. Truthfully, some patients simply
forget, so they should write it down. When your patients
schedule appointments, ask them to make a list of all medications
they are on and bring the list with them.
- Do you know the number to call
for test results? If a patient undergoes a test
or procedure, they should receive the results. It is
not sufficient to rely on the “no news is good
news” motto because a phone call or message can
too easily be missed.
- Do you understand your options
for hospital care? If a patient has the option
of several hospitals, discuss the strengths of those
hospitals so the patient can choose the best care for
their condition. Hospital care may not be limited to
a single procedure, and the patient should understand
they may need follow-up care at that hospital. To help
educate your patients about selecting hospitals, point
them to the Maryland
Health Care Commission Web site.
- Are you prepared? As
patients get ready for surgery, their safety often depends
on how well prepared they are for the event. Go over the
following questions to make sure your patient is ready.
- Are your symptoms the same, better
or worse since your last visit?
- What prescription, over-the-counter
medications or supplements are you currently taking,
have stopped taking and are planning to take the day
- Describe your typical daily meals.
- What allergies do you have or what
allergic reactions have you had to medication?
- What tests have you taken in preparation
- Are you scheduled for any other tests
before surgery? If so, what?
- What are you planning to eat and drink
- If you smoke or drink alcohol, what
your plans before surgery?
- What do you plan to wear and bring
with you on the day of surgery?
- Who is coming with you on the day
- Who do you contact in the event you
get symptoms of a cold, the flu or an infection prior
- What day and time are you expected
at the hospital?
- Please repeat the surgical instructions
you have been given.
- What other questions do you have about
the hospital stay I haven’t addressed?
- Have you obtained surgery authorization
from you health care insurance provider?
- Do you have signed health directive
(living will) on file?
- Do you understand the procedure? The
following questions help to inform them. If the patient
hears discrepancies about the procedure from anyone involved,
they can raise a red flag and possibly prevent an error
- What will the surgical procedure involve?
- Where on the body is the procedure
- How long have you told your family
members the surgery is expected to take?
- What questions do you have about the
- What concerns do you have about the
- What will your recovery involve? A
patient should also be prepared for their experience after
a procedure to improve their safety.
- Who will take you home from the hospital?
- Who will be helping you during recovery?
- What do you expect in terms of recovery?
- Are your family members/care givers
informed about the surgical procedure and recovery?
- Have you supplied contact information
for reaching family members?
Let your patient know that their own understanding of their health matters. Many patients do not know the importance of being knowledgeable about this information, which puts their safety and health at risk. The American Medical Association offers fact sheets on how to communicate with patients in a way that improves the quality of health care they receive. Please visit the Advocacy page of their AMA website for more information: http://www.ama-assn.org/