By Troy Frink at

Your relationship with your doctor is one of the most important ones you can have. You should be asking questions about your overall health, how to prevent disease, and how to stay healthy. 

However, some people may find that talking to their doctor is difficult. Some people may go into the doctor’s office with a mental list of questions, but they forget to ask them when it matters most — during face-to-face conversation with your doctor. Your doctor is a vital resource of health information, and if you could miss out on important details if you don’t take advantage of your time together. Here’s a list of 8 questions to ask your doctor to help you stay in optimal health.

1. Do You Take My Health Insurance?

Before you step foot in your doctor’s office, you should know if he or she accepts your insurance coverage. You can avoid big doctor bills if you have the right plan. 

Many plans feature provider networks that you have to stay within for coverage. In other words, if your doctor doesn’t accept your insurance plan, you may have to pay out-of-network fees or pay the full amount your doctor charges out of your own pocket. 

If you have a doctor you like and you’re thinking about changing your insurance plan, first check to see what plans your doctor accepts. Your provider’s answer can help you make the decision about what plan to switch to.

2. What Screenings or Tests Do I Need and How Often?

Your doctor may recommend specific tests during your annual wellness exam such as blood pressure or cholesterol tests. Asking your doctor what screenings you need can help prevent serious health conditions.

For example, several types of cancer are treatable or preventable if they’re caught early. Cancer screenings may be a part of your health exam when you reach a certain age. The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends that women ages 50-74 receive mammograms every two years. If you’re at a higher risk for certain kinds of cancer, your doctor may recommend cancer screenings more often. 

3. What Are My Treatment Options?

There may be more than one course of action for your treatment. A joint decision with your doctor should determine which one you take. Your doctor should tell you about your options, and you should discuss the pros and cons of each. 

Ask which treatment options your doctor favors and and why. Find out what the possible negative side effects could be, and if you aren’t comfortable with the treatment option, ask if there are any alternatives.

4. What Outcome Should I Expect?

It may seem easy to assume that your life will return to normal after a surgery or other treatment. However, sometimes the best possible outcome may be a small improvement. 

If you have a surgical procedure, ask what to expect afterward. Ask if you could experience any pain, and what kind of pain warrants calling your doctor. Find out about how long it could take to recover and how long it will take to return to normal activities. 

If you have any fears surrounding your surgery, discuss them with your doctor. Learning as much as you can about your procedure can help remove any doubts you have.

5. What Can I Do on My Own to Improve My Health?

Healthy lifestyle choices make up about 70 percent of your risk for disease. That includes choices about your diet, how you sleep, how active you are, and if you smoke. Those habits also play a huge role in your recovery from an existing condition.

Ask your doctor about what you should eat and how much. Find out how much sleep you need and what you should do for exercise. Small changes now can help you tremendously in the future.

6. What Are the Possible Side Effects?

Unfortunately, there’s always a possibility of unwanted side effects with any medication. Sometimes a medication can produce headaches, rashes, blisters, or other unwanted negative reactions. Learn about what side effects you could experience so you don’t get blindsided with an unexpected result. 

Ask what you should do if you experience a certain side effect. For example, some anti-depressants such as Prozac may enhance anxious feelings. If you have those feelings, call your doctor right away and find out how you should proceed.

7. Should I Get a Second Opinion?

Your doctor’s insights into your symptoms may be different from another doctor’s. The reason for the variance is that different doctors have different specialities. Your primary care physician should be able to refer you to the right specialist for your condition.

Getting a second opinion may cost you an additional copay depending on your insurance plan, but seeing a specialist may help you get to the root of the problem. 

8. Is There Anything Else I Need to Know?

Ask your doctor if there’s anything else you need to know after your appointment. For example, your doctor may recommend a rigorous treatment schedule. He will probably tell you about the physical impact your treatment will have. 

If you ask what else you need to know, that opens the door for your doctor to tell you about any emotional impact the treatment schedule could have. You can prepare for the emotional toll of your treatment if you know about the possibility in advance.

Stay in Optimal Health by Asking the Right Questions

If you ask your doctor the right questions, you have a better chance of staying in optimal physical and emotional health. Your doctor will be better able to recommend the right treatment plan, tests, and preventive measures if your relationship is a two-way street. 

Sometimes doctors are under time constraints and they may not give you all the information you need. Be inquisitive. Your health may depend on it.