communicatinocommunicatioNo one wants to go to the hospital, but there are times in our lives where it might be unavoidable. Whether you need to have surgery or you suddenly get sick and need to go to the hospital, it’s a stressful situation. However, if you ask your doctor the right questions when you are admitted, you’ll feel less anxious and be more prepared for a hospital stay however long.
New Dr. Amoakohene’s Review Notes can be found at the end of this story.
Questions you should ask the doctor when you are admitted:
1. What are the treatment options for my condition?
Some conditions or injuries can be treated only surgically but others may be cured with just medication alone. Make sure you ask your doctor about all the treatment options available as well as their pros and cons. There may be one or multiple possible approaches to treat the same disease. Knowing what they are will help put things in perspective. It will also be easier for you to make an informed decision.
2. How often have you performed this procedure?
Getting the news you’ll need surgery can be scary. That’s why you should ask your hospital doctors how often the operation is done at that hospital. It is equally important to ask how often they themselves perform the procedure. The more experienced your doctors are, the better outcome you may expect.
You might also want to ask about the following:
- What risks are involved with the procedure?
- What will happen if you don’t get the surgery?
- How long the recovery period will be?
That last one is so important because it could mean an extended stay in the hospital for longer than you’re planning. Depending on the acuity of your condition, you may be able to schedule your surgery at a time with a prolonged stay that is more convenient.
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3. What is the short- and long-term prognosis?
It is not always possible to predict how you are going to be affected by your disease. However, a hospital doctor should be able to give you a general overview of the condition. And, he or she should be able to describe some of the different scenarios you may be facing.
If your disease is something that isn’t going away and has become chronic, you probably want to ask for a list of local support groups that can help you to cope with it.
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In addition, your doctor should be able to refer you to websites or other materials that can provide reliable information about the condition.
4. How will this affect my home and work life?
Asking your hospital doctor this question will help you to understand more about what your life will be like once you’re discharged. For example, you may need to be on light duty if your work is physically demanding. Or, you may need to avoid driving for some time.
5. What lifestyle or dietary changes do you recommend after discharge from the hospital?
Once you’ve gotten your treatment or surgery, there may be things you can do outside of the hospital that can help you recover faster. Ask the hospital doctor what they recommend doing and if there are any lifestyle changes you’ll have to make. For example, sometimes you need to change your diet or activity level to promote healing. Another example is if you’ve had an injury you may need physical therapy and/or occupational therapy once you are discharged.
6. What follow-up care will I need after my discharge?
Another important point is to ask what doctors you need to follow up with after the discharge and how soon you need to see them. Do not hesitate to request the appointments to be made for you to have a smooth transition to outpatient care.
7. What new medications I will need to take and what are the possible side effects I need to watch for?
This is a crucial question that a lot of patients forget to ask. Make sure you get a list of all the new medications and inquire about any potential side-effects and risks involved with taking them. You’ll be surprised by how seemingly harmless and common drugs can interact with each other, especially if you are on more than just a few.
Other important tips for your safe hospital stay:
Be your own advocate
The truth is that if you want to have the best care possible for yourself, you need to be your own advocate and actively participate in every aspect of your care.
Related story: Patient-Centricity: Better Solutions For (and With) Patients
Include yourself in your treatment
So make sure you are a part of the discussion about your treatment and ask any question you feel needs to be answered.
Write it down
If you think of something when your doctor and nurse leave the room, write it down on a notepad to ask at a later time.
Don’t be afraid to speak up
You should also know that hospital doctors and their teams always tell you what they’re going to do before they do it. If they say something other than you were told, speak up immediately.
Always provide a current list of medication and supplements
When admitted to the hospitals, provide the hospital doctor with a complete list of the medications that you are taking. Be sure to include over-the-counter medicines a well as vitamins and supplements that you take regularly, even something as simple as aspirin or ibuprofen.
Additional information to provide your doctor
Anything herbal (including tea) should also be brought to your hospital doctor’s attention. If you have any allergies, you must alert the hospital doctor to them too.
Make your wishes known ahead of time
It’s also important to have a conversation with your spouse or another loved one about your wishes in case you are unable to speak for yourself. Put them in writing if necessary to let that person make decisions on your behalf.
The bottom line
Staying informed when it comes to your treatment in the hospital is the best way to get through your experience in a positive way. Please do not hesitate to ask these important questions when talking to your hospital care team.
Related story: Communication is the Key to Doctor-Patient Communication
Medical Reviewer Notes by Dr. Amoakohene
Overall, this is a well-written, informative article. It is important because the topic is one that most people or families will encounter at some point in their lives – whether through personal experience, by a close or immediate relative.
However, while it’s important to consider asking the hospital admitting doctor the questions articulated in the article one must not forget to ask the most significant and first question, which is “why I am I being admitted to the hospital?”. It is only after this fundamental initial question has been clearly answered that a patient is then able to go ahead and ask all the subsequent relevant medical questions.
Regarding different treatment options for any specific medical condition, one must also address the pros and cons of doing nothing (ie treatment vs no treatment). Other questions such as, are there any other potential risks or complications in choosing one particular treatment option vs the other must also be considered and addressed.
Drug-drug interactions between current and prior home medications are a major concern especially in the elderly. And must be addressed appropriately by the hospital medical doctor prior to being discharged from the hospital. It is recommended that patients have a thorough medication reconciliation prior to being discharged home to decrease the risk of any untoward events. This is a critical piece of information that must be addressed especially in the elderly since they are some of the most vulnerable amongst us.
Vlad Dzhashi, M.D.
Vladimir V Dzhaski, MD is board certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine. He earned his doctorate from IM Sechenov Moscow Medical Academy in 2005. He completed his residency in Internal Medicine at Pinnachle Health System – Polyclinc in 2012.
Associations & Memberships
• Member of the Society of Hospitals Medicine.
• 2020 – Present - Franciscan Medical Group - Family Medicine · Tacoma, WA,
• 2018 – Present - Queen of the Valley Medical Center · Napa, CA
• 2015 – Present - MultiCare Good Samaritan Hospital · Puyallup, WA
• 2015 – Present - St. Francis Hospital · Federal Way, WA
• 2015 – Present - St. Joseph Medical Center · Tacoma, WA
• 2012 – Present - Kadlec Regional Medical Center · Richland, WA
Dr. Dzhaski writes a blog under the pen name The Locumguy. He enjoys educating his patients and colleagues on hospital-medicine topics.