Questions to Ask

Questions to Ask

You’ll get more out of your visit to your health provider and it is easier to make decisions if you understand the treatments, medicines or tests that your doctor or other health professional recommends – and that means asking questions.

Asking questions and being informed means that you can make the best health care decisions for you. It can also help keep you safe when receiving healthcare.

No one should leave a doctor’s appointment unsure about their health condition and what the plan is, or with unanswered questions.

Some Quick Tips

  1. Write down your questions before your appointment so you don’t forget them.
  2. It is a good idea to work out how important each question is and ask the most important questions first.
  3. You can ask your doctor or health provider to write down the answers for you.
  4. Take all the information you think you will need with you – including a list of your current medications.

Ask Me 3

Ask Me 3 encourages you to ask three questions at the end of every health appointment or consultation:

  1. What is my main problem?
  2. What do I need to do?
  3. Why is it important for me to do this?

SUmmary of the Ask me 3 questions

You can use the Ask Me 3 form to prompt you to ask the questions and to write down the answers when you see your doctor or other health professional. You can ask your health professional to write the answers for you.  A support person or carer can also do this for you.

While Ask Me 3 focuses on you asking questions, it is important that your health professional gives you answers that you understand. Your health professional should encourage you to ask questions, and allow enough time for questions and answers during your appointment.

Question Builder tool

Question Builder is a free online tool to help you think about questions you might like to ask your doctor, and to prepare for any questions they may ask you when you go to an appointment.

The tool was developed for Australian consumers by Healthdirect Australia and the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care.

The Question Builder takes you through a series of steps, from selecting which type of appointment you are preparing for, to working out the questions that you would like to ask and helping you to decide which ones are the most important questions so you can make sure you get them answered.

The questions can then be printed or emailed to a phone/device for use during the appointment.

You can find Question Builder here.


5 Questions to ask before a test or treatment

Choosing Wisely Australia recommends asking your doctor 5 questions before you agree to any test or treatment. Some tests, treatments, and procedures don’t always provide much benefit and in some cases they can even cause harm.

Asking these 5 questions can help make sure you end up with the right care for you.

Infographic of the 5 Questions to Ask from Choosing Wisely

You can find these questions in other languages on the Choosing Wisely Australia website.

Other questions you can ask

Northern NSW Health Literacy has a range of tools for consumers to help build their health literacy skills.  Their PLAN (Prepare, Listen and share, Ask questions, Note down what you need to do next) handout is a helpful tool for patients to get the most from a health care appointment.  It give suggestions for how to prepare, what information you might need, some questions to ask, and room to write down some of the answers.

The Health Direct website also has a list of possible questions to ask before you decide about health care options.

Here are a few questions you could ask:

  • What is the name of the condition? Is it known by any other names?
  • How serious is this condition?
  • What causes it?
  • Is it likely to get worse? Or is it likely to get better?
  • Would it help to see any other health professionals, such as specialists, physiotherapists, dietitians, or dentists?
  • Is there anything I can do to improve it myself?
  • How long is it likely to last?
  • What is the test for?
  • How accurate are the results of the test?
  • What will a positive result mean?
  • What will a negative result mean?
  • How do I prepare for the test (for example, by fasting beforehand)?
  • How soon do I need to have the test?
  • When and how will I get the results?
  • How effective is this treatment for someone like me?
  • Are there any risks or side effects?
  • How likely is it that I will experience a negative side effect?
  • How long will I need the treatment for?
  • Are there simpler, safer options?
  • What happens if I don’t do anything?
  • How quickly do I have to start the treatment?
  • Does the medicine have side effects and what should I do if I experience side effects?
  • What would happen if I don’t take the medicine?
  • Will it interact with any other medicines I take, including any vitamins, herbal medicine or other complementary medicine?
  • If the pharmacist offers me a generic brand of the medicine, is it ok to take it?
  • What should I do if I miss my regular dose?
  • How will the surgery help me?
  • What are the alternatives to surgery?
  • What might happen if I do nothing?
  • Out of 100 people who have had this surgery, how many felt better?
  • What could go wrong?
  • If you did this operation on 100 people, how many would have something go wrong?
  • How many times have you done this particular operation?  What were the results of those operations?
  • Are there simpler, safer options?
  • What are the costs?
  • How long will it take to recover?
  • How long before you can to get back to your normal life?
  • Who is the best surgeon for this particular operation?

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Last Updated on 16 January, 2023.