Questions to ask your health professional

It’s important to understand your medical test options and what each test involves. The following questions may help you to discuss your options with your health professional, and help you find out more about a test.

In some cases, the benefit of a test is not clear cut, and you may want to discuss the ‘pros and cons’ with your doctor.

Are there options?

  • What will happen if I don’t have the test?
  • Is there an alternative test?

Why has the test been requested?

  • Will the test guide or change my treatment?
  • What could the test results show?
  • How soon do I need to have the test?

With any medical test, procedure or treatment it’s always a good idea to find out all your options. Sometimes ‘watchful waiting’ may be a valid option. Asking about the possible consequences if you do — or don’t — have the test is important, especially if this could affect your decision.

What are the potential risks and benefits?

  • What are the possible positive outcomes?
  • What are the possible negative outcomes?
  • How reliable are the results likely to be?

Positive outcomes include accurate diagnosis of your condition, to help guide your treatment. A test may also help prevent problems by detecting risk factors (e.g. high cholesterol).

Negative outcomes include the risk of complications associated with performing a test, as well as anxiety and concern about having the test and its results.

Tests do not always provide a definite answer, which can lead to more testing or an uncertain conclusion.

What does the test involve?

  • How long will the test take?
  • How do I prepare for the test?

How much will the test cost?

  • Is the cost covered by Medicare, my concession card or private health insurance?

When can I expect to get the results?

  • When should I see my doctor again?
  • What is the next step?
  • Will further tests be likely?

Find out what the test involves and any special instructions (e.g. fasting, or not driving afterwards). Ask if you will have to pay any out-of-pocket costs.

Also ask what the next step will be, and who you’ll need to talk to about the results. Request a copy of the test results to keep at home.

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