Getting ready for a doctor’s appointment – 5 questions to ask

Medical appointments can sometimes be emotional and stressful. It is easy to leave without getting all the information you need. Many people find that writing down questions to ask their doctor can help them get the most out of their appointment.

Choosing Wisely Australia is part of a world-wide campaign urging people to talk to their doctor, pharmacist or nurse. They suggest 5 questions to ask. It's OK to ask which tests and treatments you really need to keep you healthy.

Ricki Spencer and Debra Letica are two people who use the Choosing Wisely 5 Questions. We talked to them in a recent podcast.

Ricki Spencer sees many different health professionals and asks each of them different questions.

“I have a series of questions ready. If I’m not feeling well, I can at least pass them to the clinician. I can say ‘please address these for me so I don’t forget’.”

“It gives me a sense of control and ownership over my body,” they say.

Ricki says it is OK to ask questions about costs. “Understanding the pros and cons, the benefits and the risks helps me prepare emotionally. Understanding the costs lets me plan my cash flow. I can think about travel time, transport and any out-of-pocket costs."

Debra Letica is a health consumer advocate and carer. She wishes she'd found the Choosing Wisely 5 questions before. “Having the 5 questions helps me focus - what do I really want to know,” she says.

“I feel it balances up the playing field. Doctors appreciate you using the questions. They know that you have come prepared and focused on your health.”

“It makes it easier to have a conversation with my doctor,” she says.

GP and NPS MedicineWise Medical Advisor Dr Caroline West agrees. “As health professionals, we need to listen to our patients. We are working in partnership with them. Sharing the decision making and helping them make the best decisions for themselves,” she says.

When people have a set of questions ready, she says it really helps structure the appointment. “It makes sure you get as much information as you need. This can help you to make choices that are right for you.”

The Choosing Wisely 5 questions are:

  • Do I really need this test, treatment or procedure?
  • What are the risks?
  • Are there simpler, safer options?
  • What happens if I don’t do anything?
  • What are the costs?

The Choosing Wisely 5 questions in English and other languages are on the Choosing Wisely Australia website.

Listen to the podcast: Changing the conversation: 5 questions for patients and health professionals

For more information visit, or email [email protected]

Join the conversation on Twitter @ChooseWiselyAU or follow us on Facebook.


Media contact

Bernadette Withers, NPS MedicineWise: 0419 618 365 or [email protected]