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What Are Patients Really Asking?

In this article, I will address how a certified medical assistant should think about what questions patients ask when they are presented with medical information.

In general, patients don’t necessarily have the same concerns as physicians and other medical health professionals. Medical professionals and medical assistant schools are asking themselves, “What is wrong here, and how do we fix it?”. On the other hand, patients are asking themselves a series of other questions. They are asking questions like, “How will this impact my life?”, “How much will this cost?” and “Will this hurt?”. In this article, I will discuss how to decode these various questions.

How will this impact my life? Patients are concerned with the way that medical outcomes could outcome their lives, especially in the long term. For instance, they might be worried about whether or not something could cause some sort of permanent disability, or that it might include a side-effect that they will need to wrestle with in the long term. In these cases, look for questions about bodily damage, function or side effects. It is good to have a sense of what kind of damage is risked and what side effect there are, but also how they might affect a patient’s life so that you can answer these questions.

How much will this cost? Patients are often embarrassed to ask how much a procedure or medication will cost, as they somehow think that it is wrong to care about these “trivial” things in the face of health. However, you should look out for when this is a concern. Questions about how many times they will need to undergo something, whether there are alternative medications or whether the insurance company would cover something are often health concerns. Have some rough figures at your fingertips so that you can address this.

Will this hurt? Patients are also embarrassed to ask how much something will hurt, especially men. Look carefully for questions about anaesthetic, sedatives and questions that focus closely on wounds or the ability to exercise (which can be code for whether it will hurt to move). Have some understanding of how much pain patients can expect from a procedure, so that you can deal with these sorts of questions.

by Lindsay Schloss

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