How do I pick a primary care doctor?
- Ask a local doctor or nurse for a recommendation
- Ask family members or friends who they see and if they like them
- Try a first appointment and see if he/she is a good listener
What questions should I ask my doctor after a new diagnosis?
- Ask if they would recommend that you see a specialist for this condition
- Ask if further testing would add anything to your care
- Ask what is the mainstay of treatment and what are other good alternatives
- Ask for a pamphlet or handout about your diagnosis from your doctor/hospital
- Search for non-profit organizations that run websites about your diagnosis, e.g. diabetes.org
Should I always get a second opinion?
- It is always good to get a second opinion for any major procedure, treatment or therapy
- Your doctor should feel comfortable with you getting a second opinion if you desire
- If you feel comfortable with the doctor that you are dealing with and they explain things clearly, you do not necessarily need to get a second opinion
- If your insurance company does not pay for a second opinion, you can always pay for one on your own – the cost is typically $300 - $1000
How do I seek out the right doctor for a second opinion or a specialist?
- Start by asking your generalist for referrals
- For rare conditions, use pubmed.gov and explore which doctors have published research articles about your condition
- Search for websites and societies that discuss your condition and who is treating it
- Beware of marketing
- Hospitals create “centers” to lure business, but remember, one doctor does not constitute a “center”
- Patient satisfaction surveys are often misrepresented, and “top” scores and rankings in magazines are often paid for
Do I need to take this medication?
- Ask what are the chances of something bad happening if you don’t take it
- Ask if you can take another medication instead with fewer side effects
- Ask if there is there a lower cost alternative and what is the difference
I need to have surgery – what should I ask my surgeon?
- Ask how many of these surgeries do they perform per year
- Ask if there a less invasive option for the surgery (laparoscopic or robotic versus open)
- Ask what are the top 3 risks of the surgery
- Ask how long will you be in the hospital
- Ask if you will need to remain local after being discharged from the hospital
- Ask what could happen if you don’t have the surgery
- Run an older doctor’s advice by a younger doctor as older doctors have more experience, but younger doctors may be more skilled with newer techniques
I am going to have major surgery – is my local hospital a good option?
- Ask how many of the procedure that you are having are performed there per year
- Ask if they have an intensive care unit (ICU) with a practitioner in house 24 hours
- Ask a hospital employee from your local hospital if they would have their care there – this is one of the most important metrics of a hospital’s performance
- Beware of variations within hospitals – a hospital that is a center of excellence in one area may be far substandard in other areas
- Look up a hospital’s performance at http://hospitalcompare.hhs.gov
- Ensure that they have convenient visiting hours for you and your family
- Ask if a family member stay overnight
How do I pick a hospital to deliver my baby?
- What is the hospital’s C-section rate?* *(the national average is 20%)
- Ask for a tour of the hospital to ensure you will be comfortable there
I have chronic back pain and have been recommended to have surgery for it - do I need back surgery?
- Always get a second opinion
- Consider getting an opinion from both a neurosurgeon and an orthopedic surgeon
- Ask if physical therapy is a viable alternative
I was told that I have cancer – what do I do now?
- For general information about your particular cancer, search using nci.gov, pubmed.gov
- Ask your doctor what your primary treatment options are – are you a candidate for no treatment, surgery, chemotherapy, radiation or a combination?
- If you are going to receive treatment, ask if it will give you a significant chance of cure or will it significantly prolong your life
- Ask for a detailed list of the risks and benefits of treatment
- Ask if this type of cancer run in families and if your family members should be tested
- If you would like to consider being in a clinical trial, go to clinical trials.gov to learn more about available trials
I have cancer and have been asked to enroll in a clinical trial – what is this and should I join one?
- A clinical trial usually involves cutting edge treatment and can result in both potential good and harm
- Ask for a clear list of risks and benefits
- Ask about how you would be treated if not in the trial
- Ask if your insurance will pay for it
- If desired, ask to see the study protocol
I am considering alternative cancer therapies – are these efficacious?
- If you are using any alternative therapy, discuss it with your primary care physician to ensure you understand the risks
- Alternative therapies may have benefits, but they are less well defined than those of traditional therapies