Asking your doctor questions may be key to your health

Fairfield, Conn. (WTNH) — Are you intimidated by your doctor? A lot of patients are.

Many are overwhelmed by their own health issues, and not able to ask the questions they need to be asking.

Patient advocates like Randi Redmond Oster are doing what they can to empower patients to do just that.

Not clear about what your doctor is telling you in the exam room?

Oster advises, don’t worry about offending the doctor, ask the hard questions, “You can trust but you do need to engage.”

The author of “Questioning Protocol,” Oster writes about how she helped her family navigate their health care crisis.

She emphasizes, “It’s our job to talk, it’s our job to over-communicate.”

The former General Electric engineer shares her experience so that others are empowered.

“One hard question that I learned to ask and that’s with my father’s end of life was when they wanted to do surgery. How long would he live with surgery and how long would he live without? As a daughter and only child, it felt heartless to ask such a question.”

It enabled her family to come up with best decision.

Another tip, ask why and say no.

“When you ask the question, if you get that, yahhh, I’m not sure about this now that I understand. You can say no. Here’s what I discovered. There were several times when I said no and they came up with another alternative.”

If you’re the patient, she recommends to bring someone else, who can get you the answers you need.

“There should be someone who has the ability to understand your point of view,” said Oster. “Who can also keep their emotions in check, which is a huge hurdle and also can communicate with the doctors.”

At a recent book signing, Opthalmologist Dr. Leonard Flom, was among those in the audience to listen to what Oster had to say.

“Patients are intimidated by their doctors and they should not be,” Flom said.

Doctors he said, also have a part to play.

“They should not be afraid to ask questions and the doctor should be the kind of doctor who is willing to answer those questions. And if they are not? You choose somebody else,” Flom said.

While doctors are limited with their time, Oster points to a path, leading to shared decision making, to improve outcomes.

“What we need to do as patients is understand what are our questions, what’s important to us and use that time to our advantage,” Oster said.

Oster says by understanding what the expectations are on both sides, you can develop a relationship with your doctor — that is efficient, productive and yield the best outcomes possible.

You can reach Randi Redmond Oster at

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