Elderly patient in wheelchair asking her doctor a question

Going to hospital: Questions to ask your doctor

All the questions you should ask before a stay in hospital

Going to hospital can be a confusing and daunting time.Whether you’re having major surgery or just a minor operation, it’s important that you’re fully informed before going under the knife.

By asking your doctor or specialist all the right questions, you’ll be as prepared as possible for a smooth and hopefully hassle-free hospital stay.

So, what questions should you ask your doctor? Read on to find out.

What to ask your GP

With the exception of emergency situations, most hospital admissions occur after you are referred to a specialist by your GP. If your GP indicates that they will refer you to a specialist who can assess and treat your condition, here are a few questions you might like to ask:

  • Why do I need to see a specialist?
  • Why are you referring me to this particular specialist?
  • How much experience do they have treating this particular condition?
  • If the waiting time for treatment by one specialist is lengthy, can you recommend another specialist?
  • Does the specialist work at public and private hospitals?
  • How can I make an appointment with the specialist?
  • How can I find out how much it will cost me to see the specialist?

What to ask your specialist

Seeing a specialist about your condition can be a stressful and anxiety-filled time. And if you’re worried about your health, it’s sometimes easy to get a little overwhelmed and forget to focus on the information the specialist is providing.

Your specialist will probably answer most or all of the questions below during your consultation, but it’s worth using them as a handy checklist to make sure all of your concerns are covered during your appointment.

Questions about your condition

  • What is my condition?
  • What are the causes and how serious is it?
  • Why do I need treatment? How necessary is it?
  • What treatment do you recommend and why?
  • What experience do you have in treating this condition?
  • Do I need to be treated immediately or can I wait?

You may also have questions specifically related to your condition. For example, if you’ve been diagnosed with cancer you might want to ask:

  • What type of cancer do I have?
  • Has it spread to other parts of my body?
  • How fast is it growing?
  • Can my cancer be cured or controlled?

If you’re pregnant and expecting a child, questions you may need to ask include:

  • When is my baby due?
  • How often do I need to see you or other specialists throughout my pregnancy?
  • What scans and tests will I have throughout my pregnancy? When?
  • What lifestyle changes will I need to make during pregnancy (eg no alcohol consumption)?
  • What foods do I need to avoid?
  • How can I manage morning sickness?
  • Do I need to take any supplements or medications?
  • When should I stop working?
  • Which hospital will I go to?
  • How do I know when to go to hospital?
  • How long will I stay in hospital after giving birth?

Questions about your treatment

  • What does treatment involve? How long will it take?
  • Is there any evidence of the effectiveness of this treatment?
  • Will I need local or general anaesthetic?
  • Where and when will the treatment be performed?
  • How long will I be in hospital?
  • Are there any risks associated with my procedure?
  • What are the risks associated with the anaesthetic?
  • Will I need a blood transfusion?
  • What are the side effects of treatment?
  • Will I need to undergo any further tests or scans before the procedure?
  • What do I need to do to prepare for admission to hospital?
  • Is there anything else I should or shouldn’t do before receiving treatment?
  • Will any other specialists or healthcare professionals be involved in my treatment or recovery?
  • Are there any other treatment options? What are they and why are you recommending this procedure instead of those other options?
  • What should I do if my condition worsens while I am waiting for treatment?

Questions about the cost of treatment

  • How much will treatment cost?
  • What are your fees?
  • Do you participate in my health fund’s gap cover scheme?
  • Will I have any out-of-pocket costs? Can I have an estimate of these in writing?
  • If I do have any out-of-pocket costs, how will I be billed? Will the bill be sent to me or to my health fund?
  • If there are any other specialists involved in the procedure, how can I find out what their fees are?
  • If the cost of my procedure changes, when will I find out about this?

Questions about your recovery

  • What can I expect during recovery? Will there be any pain?
  • Are there any complementary therapies that might help with the pain or any other side effects?
  • Will I be on any medication? What and for how long?
  • Will I need any help at home?
  • How long will recovery take?
  • What should I do if something doesn’t seem right or my condition worsens after I have been discharged?
  • Will I need to have any follow-up appointments? Who will they be with and where will they be?
  • Is there anything else I can do to speed up my recovery?
  • When will I be able to return to work and/or resume my normal leisure activities?

What to remember when talking to your doctor or specialist

Keep these tips in mind to ensure that you stay informed about treatment:

  • Make a list. Put together a list of important questions before meeting your specialist so that you remember everything you want to ask.
  • Consider a longer appointment. If you have a long list of questions, you might want to consider booking a longer appointment so you have enough time to cover everything.
  • Take a friend. Ask a friend or loved one to accompany you to your specialist appointment. They will be able to help you understand the specialist’s answers and make sure you ask all the necessary questions.
  • Ask again. If you don’t understand an answer, don’t be afraid to ask for it to be explained again.
  • Get a summary. Ask your specialist to provide a written outline of your treatment plan so you can take it away to study in your own time.
  • Ask for an interpreter. If you have trouble communicating in English, you can access an interpreter by phoning the Translating and Interpreting Service on 13 14 50.

Asking questions is an essential part of ensuring that you get the right care for your condition. Once you have all the answers to your questions about your treatment options, the benefits and risks, the costs involved and the ins and outs of a visit to hospital, you can make an informed decision about health care.

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Tim Falk

A freelance writer with a passion for the written word, Tim loves helping Australians find the right home loans and savings accounts. When he's not chained to a computer, Tim can usually be found exploring the great outdoors.

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