How to Question Your Doctor’s Advice
Speaking up can feel strange—disrespectful, even—but remember that your doctor has your best interests in mind. The goal is a frank, honest dialogue about your health.
Don’t wait until the end of the appointment to speak up about symptoms or concerns, says Joshua Kosowsky, MD, coauthor of When Doctors Don’t Listen: How to Avoid Misdiagnoses and Unnecessary Tests. Showing you’re invested in your health will help make a discussion about testing feel more comfortable.
Try saying, “Explain to me what you think we’ll find with this test and how that result will help me.” If she can’t articulate how the new information might assist you, it may not be a good idea to get the test, says Brandon Combs, MD, associate professor of medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and a senior fellow for medical education at the Lown Institute, an organization that works to make health care more personalized.
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You deserve to know the pros and cons. If imaging is on the table, ask your doctor if she has consulted with a radiologist, and request a conversation with that radiologist to review why the imaging is necessary, says Max Wintermark, MD, chief of neuroradiology at Stanford University. Don’t feel pressured to make an on-the-spot decision.
If you aren’t receiving the answers you want, couch your decision in terms of medical costs or anxiety about getting screened, says Barbara Levy, MD, ACOG’s vice president for health policy. You might say, “I get anxious when it comes to tests, so if it’s not absolutely necessary, I’d prefer to decline it right now.” Or try, “I’m attempting to manage my health care costs, so if this test isn’t absolutely necessary, I’d rather skip it for the time being.”