3 Must-Ask Questions for Every Doctor’s Visit

Communicating clearly and simply is an essential part of the job of all health care providers. When doctors have good communication with their patients, it allows individuals to play a more active role in making their own health care decisions.

But sometimes the information doctors share may be difficult to understand, especially when it involves specialized conditions, procedures or medications. The amount of medical information a person is able to obtain, process and understand is called health literacy. This can be affected by many things including communication skills, cultural backgrounds and demands of the situation (e.g. a busy doctor or uninvolved patient).

Medical information can be overwhelming to anyone. Because of this, the National Patient Safety Foundation created the “Ask Me 3” patient education program, which helps to improve health literacy by encouraging patients to ask three questions:

1. What is my main problem?

2. What do I need to do?

3. Why is it important for me to do this?

Research has shown that patients with lower health literacy are 50% more likely to end up in the hospital. They are also less likely to take their medication properly and have less knowledge of their disease.

If you don’t understand something your doctor says, ask them to explain it in a different way. Next time you visit your health care provider, follow the Ask Me 3 questions to be sure you leave with all the information you need to get better.

A good patient-provider relationship is central to BCBSM’s Patient-Centered Medical Home model. Click here to learn more or use Blue Cross’ Find a Doctor Tool to select a PCMH-designated physician.


Photo credit: SDI Productions

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Read 9 Comments

  1. I really like that you recommend to ask why you should do what the doctor suggests you should do. I can see why this would help you gain a better understanding of the importance of following their direction. You might even ask what you should do if you can’t do what they recommend regularly. That way, if something were to come up, you would know how to properly handle it.

  2. Thanks for telling me that I can always ask doctors to explain it further whenever I find it hard to understand what they’re saying. I’m afraid of getting myself checked since there are medical terms I might not understand, but reading your article encouraged me to do so. I’ll try to schedule an appointment for our family this weekend to see if we’re still healthy like we think we are.

  3. I like your suggestion to ask the doctor what our main problem is. My husband wants to find a local doctor’s office to visit. Your advice should help him get the most value from the appointment.

    1. Deanna,

      Glad to hear you are seeing your primary care doctor soon, and are prepared to have a conversation about your health.

  4. I found it helpful when you said that you should consider asking a doctor to explain what they mean in a different way if you don’t understand something that they say. My husband mentioned that he is looking for a reliable primary care physician because he is often experiencing stomachaches and migraines. It is important for him to be treated as soon as possible.

    1. Shammy,

      If you need help finding a provider, BCBSM offers options through our Find a Doctor tool online – or call the number on the back of your insurance card.

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