Your role at the doctor's office isn't over when you describe your problem. You have to understand what your provider is telling you — and that goes double if you're signing a form to say you understand the risks of a procedure or of being involved in a study.
Some GPs do a better job than others of explaining, but two doctors write in the New York Times that if you ask the right questions, you have a better chance of learning what you're really getting into. For example:
- Summarise what you heard, in your own words. Ask whether you got it right. This not only gives your doc a chance to correct any misconceptions, it's also a great strategy for remembering things better.
- Ask for a written copy of the instructions, or even pictures or videos. [GPs] may have these on hand or be able to point you to good sources of information.
- Ask for the best case, worst case and most likely scenarios. This can help you sort through a confusing list of risks and understand better whether the procedure or treatment is even worthwhile.
- Explore alternative treatment options and ask about the pros and cons of each. Your [GP] might be recommending the one she's most experienced or comfortable with, but you deserve to know what other options are out there.
Read about more questions, and the reasons why doctor-patient communication doesn't always go so well, at the link below.
Informed Patient? Don't Bet on It [The New York Times]