I have been seeing a lot of Public Service Announcement (PSA) spots on TV lately, sponsored by www.AHRQ.gov, a government organization that apparently I’m not familiar. The PSAs show a woman in a restaurant asking her server questions like Meg Ryan in the movie, “When Harry Met Sally.” The over-written message on the screen reads, “We ask questions everywhere we go.” Then the screen shows the same woman in her healthcare provider’s office being asked if she has any questions—she declines with head shaking, and the over-written message reads, “Except here.”
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), a division of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, wants everyone to know that there are 10 questions to ask your healthcare provider when receiving treatment. The goal of the AHRQ is to improve healthcare quality by reducing unnecessary testing, expense, and deaths related to treating patients. As your own best advocate (or advocating for the health of a loved one), if you do your homework prior to doctor visits, you can get the right questions answered:
1. What is the test for?
2. How many times have you done this?
3. When will I get the results?
4. Why do I need this surgery?
5. Are there any alternatives to surgery?
6. What are the possible complications?
7. Which hospital is best for my needs?
8. How do you spell the name of that drug?
9. Are there any side effects?
10. Will this Medicine interact with medicines I’m already taking?
In their “Questions are the Answer” campaign, additional online resources are provided including a handy tool for particular cases where different or additional questions should be asked—it’s on the Build Your Own Question List page. If concerned you may forget the answers, take notes during your doctor visit, or ask for a summation at the end of the visit to reinforce what you learned.
The other PSA from the organization shows a man in a cellphone store asking a bazillion questions about a handset and the service that comes with it. Then when his doctor asks if he has questions during an assumed office visit, he shakes his head slowly, and says “uh, no.” Again, the message is that we need to be asking more questions of our healthcare professionals and following up on our care.
Have you heard of a test or procedure related to your condition you think may be helpful? Do you have a family history that could point the healthcare provider in the right direction to achieve a correct diagnosis? Offer information, and ask questions. It is everyone’s responsibility to be a team player and make sure that your health is your priority in and out of the doctor's office, and not just a priority of your healthcare provider.
Christine Jeffries is a writer/editor for work and at heart, and lives in a home of testosterone with her husband and two sons. She started a women’s group, The Wo-Hoo! Society in the interests of friendship, networking, and philanthropy. The group meets separately on a monthly basis in the Phoenix and Kansas City areas. Christine is interested in women’s health and promoting strong women.