The key to making informed decisions about your health care is to ask questions and to seek further information when necessary.
Your health professional should make time to explain the treatment options and answer your questions. You may ask to have a family member or support person involved in that conversation if you wish. You have a right to request additional support if you do not speak English or if you have challenges with communication.
Here are some tips to help you communicate better with members of your health care team:
- Write a list of questions before your appointment so you are prepared. It’s hard to think of everything while in the appointment.
- Bring a notebook and write down the health professional’s answers or, even better, ask a family member or friend to do it for you. That will allow you to read the information later, taking the time you need to process it.
- Speak up if you are having trouble understanding an explanation or unfamiliar words. Your health professional may be able to draw a picture or give an example that will help you understand.
- Let your health professional know if you are interested in seeking a second opinion. Most of them will understand the value of a second opinion, and they may even be able to recommend another health professional.
- Ask your health professional where you can find additional information or printed materials about your condition. Many health services have this information readily available.
- Talk with your health care team about information you have found on the internet or in books or magazines. Not all information is accurate and reliable. Some information from overseas may not be relevant to Australia.
Healthdirect Australia has a very useful guide on questions to ask your doctor.
An insiders experience of the healthcare system
Health professionals are trained to be attentive to patient needs and to continually re-evaluate practice in order to provide the best treatment possible outcomes. This article describes one young man's reflections on such an experience.
Health Direct Australia: Questions to ask your doctor
You’ll get more out of your health care if you’re well informed about any treatments, medicines or tests that your doctor or other health professional recommends and that means asking questions. This guide will help you decide what questions you need to ask.
Consumers Step Up program
A network of health consumers contributing their experience and knowledge to health care improvements.Find out more
Subscribe to Full Circle
Our monthly newsletter