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Finding Your Way

How to Get Patients to Ask — and Doctors to Listen

When patients ask questions, their health improves

But even when patients have a lot of questions, the average time for a doctor's visit is often less than 20 minutes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That's why this initiative includes customized note pads that AHRQ distributes to medical offices and clinics to help patients identify their top three questions to ask during their medical appointment. Clinicians in the AHRQ videos say this is a good way to make sure that they have enough time to answer their patients' questions completely.

Other elements of the initiative include:

  • An interactive "Question Builder" lets patients create and print a prioritized list of questions based on their health condition.
  • A new brochure helps patients be more prepared before, during, and after their appointments.

I'm excited about the work that AHRQ is doing to continue to encourage patients and clinicians to work as partners in finding the best treatment options. Learning about the experiences of patients like Bill Lee and the clinicians who work with patients each day convinces me that we are on the right track.

I'm Dr. Carolyn Clancy, and that's my advice on how to navigate the health care system.

Also of interest: Asking doctors the tough questions. >>

Carolyn M. Clancy, a general internist and researcher, is an expert in engaging consumers in their health care. She is the director of the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

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