Encouraging patient questions

While it should primarily be the responsibility of professionals to ensure that they are providing information that is accurate, relevant and understandable it can also be beneficial to support patients and service users in feeling comfortable to ask questions. As part of this patients need to feel that it is acceptable to ask questions, that the questions will be listened to and to know the types of questions they should ask.

There may be specific questions that a person wishes to ask about such as the impact of their condition on their ability to work or care for a family member, it is important that they feel comfortable and confident in asking questions and in being active partners in any decisions that are being made about their health or care.

One of the most common methods is called ‘Ask me three’, this method encourages patients to ask three questions which should provide them with the key information that they need to know about their condition and situation:

  1. What is my main problem?
  2. What do I need to do?
  3. Why is it important for me to do this?

Additionally, Choosing Wisely UK focusses on shared decision making using BRAN to encourage patients get the best from conversations with their healthcare professional by asking four questions.

  1. What are the Benefits?
  2. What are the Risks ?
  3. What are the Alternatives?
  4. What if I do Nothing?

This is a collaborative process in which doctors and healthcare professionals work together with patients to select tests, treatments and care management or support packages, based on clinical evidence and patients’ informed preferences and values.

Some key resources offering guidance: 

IHI Ask me 3

Realistic Medicine – 5 questions