I see two kinds of patients: those who come prepared to doctor’s appointments with a long list of questions, and those who come with no questions at all.
But no matter how many questions a patient has, I still find they miss the most important one. What is it? It’s simple: “What are the next three actionable steps I can take to improve my condition?”
It doesn’t matter what the problem is. It works for diabetes, chronic back pain, high cholesterol, or a newly broken bone, which is a pretty wide range of medical issues. So why is this question the most important one to ask?
1. It puts you in the driver’s seat when it comes to improving your health or hastening your recovery. Sometimes patients have no clue what to do once they leave the doctor’s office. This question shows them there’s something they can do, which is exactly why I want them to ask what they should do. In other cases, you might think you’re already taking steps to help yourself thanks to an Internet search with Dr. Google. But you may be doing things that have no effect at all on your condition or that may even be harmful. Asking your doctor this question provides you with accurate, sound advice tailored specifically to you.
2. It prioritizes what to focus on. Let’s face it, taking care of yourself and with everything else in your life can seem overwhelming. Let’s say you have type 2 diabetes. At some point you may have been told to lose weight. That’s easy to say, but much harder to do. Where do you start? Asking this question prompts your doctor to clearly prioritize the first three steps that will be the most important and impactful right now. Three steps are doable and give you a target to get started on the path to better health.
3. It shows your doctor that you’re stepping up. There’s nothing more frustrating for a doctor than thinking a patient isn’t making any effort to improve their health. Asking “What three steps can I take right now?” shows your doctor that you’re willing to go the distance. Demonstrating your commitment to your health energizes your doctor to double down to help you get healthier and reach your goals because they’ve become shared goals you’re both working toward.
With any major undertaking, just getting started is half the battle and that’s pretty hard to do if you don’t know where to start. If your destination is better health, ask your doctor “What are the next three actionable steps I can take to improve my condition?” to set your GPS!