Although the American healthcare system undoubtedly has its fair share of problems, the majority of us rely on the wisdom of medical professionals to ensure we receive the treatment we need. But while these physicians are typically knowledgeable and well-trained, that doesn’t mean that the patient can’t or shouldn’t take an active role in their own healthcare. In fact, it’s essential to be involved — probably more than you already are.

Meeting with your family doctor or specialist can be an overwhelming experience. If you feel anxious about a particular health concern, it’s tough to stay present in the moment or ask for clarification if you need it. In many cases, you might have trouble absorbing the information or feel embarrassed in admitting you don’t quite understand the situation or your doctor’s recommendation. While it can be difficult to get past that feeling of shame, it’s imperative to ask questions pertaining to your own care. Whether you’re wondering about your own health and well-being or you want to make sure your child is getting the highest caliber of treatment available, you’ll want to keep these questions in mind for the next appointment. For example, if you’re concerned about your child’s health, but you don’t have the knowledge that the national childhood obesity rate is about 18.5%, you might not have all of the info you need. The answers you receive will not only put your mind at ease but will also make it clear if you need to look elsewhere for treatment. Here’s what many doctors wish their patients would ask — but rarely hear.

Can I Trust Online Resources For Medical Information?

Most of us are guilty of doing a quick Google search whenever we’re dealing with an unfamiliar ailment or we want to learn more about a diagnosis. In some cases, this is relatively harmless. Information from the CDC, for example, that says it’s best to remove old bandages and check for signs of infection every 24 hours can be considered trustworthy. But with so many websites giving out medical advice, how do you know which ones to believe?

That’s a good question for your doctor. Don’t forget that Google doesn’t always know which resources are the most medically sound. A blogger with no real medical experience could theoretically publish anything — whether it’s backed up by science or not. Generally, government websites are trustworthy, as are university research sites. Talk to your doctor about which sites they trust so you can make more informed decisions when looking up your symptoms online.

What Should I Be Doing For Prevention and Overall Wellness?

This might sound general, but you’d probably be surprised by how many major medical conditions can be avoided with the right kind of preventative care — including lifestyle adjustments. Staying on top of vaccinations and age-appropriate testing, delving into your family medical history, and gaining insight into the exact kind of behaviors that can support an improved lifestyle can be powerful steps for patients looking to take an active role in their own wellness.

Logically, most of us know that diet and exercise are two of the best ways to prevent disease. But what exactly does maintaining a “healthy diet” look like? And how much exercise should we actually be getting? There are a lot of variables to consider. We shouldn’t forget the importance of stress reduction, adequate sleep, or proper dental care, either. Although orthodontic treatment normally begins between the ages of eight and 14, many people in their 20s, 30s, and above let their oral health fall by the wayside. And since we now know that poor oral hygiene, stress, and inadequate sleep can increase our risk for a number of health conditions, it’s important to take a holistic approach to your wellness and see what you can be doing to reduce those risks. You might even consider asking your doctor what they themselves do to stay healthy. Although they may not be dealing with the same medical history or other factors, getting more specific guidance can often be beneficial when changes need to be made.

Why is This Treatment Being Recommended? Are There Alternatives?

The general consensus is that many patients don’t know enough about the medications or treatments that are being recommended and received. Statistics show that 20,000 medical malpractice claims are filed each year, but a recent analysis found that it 67% of cardiologists say that patients blame physicians for poor surgical outcomes and file subsequent lawsuits because they simply don’t understand the medical risks associated with the procedures.

Whether you’re considering having a medical procedure performed or your doctor has suggested starting or switching a medication, it’s important to find out why a certain option is being recommended and whether there are viable alternatives that could be as beneficial or less risky. In many instances, nonsurgical treatments can be just as (if not more) effective in improving certain conditions. Even if your doctor prescribes an antibiotic to you or your child, you may want to double-check to make sure it’s actually needed before you fill the prescription. Asking the reasons why a doctor might want you to start a new medication can prevent errors or provide your physician with additional insight. And the more you know about your options, the better off you’ll be.

Are There Ways For Me to Reduce or Eliminate Medications I’m Taking?

Once you’re taking certain medications, you might not question their inclusion in your routine. While you should never simply stop taking a prescribed medication without consulting your doctor first, you should feel empowered to talk to them about the medicines you’re taking and about any concerns you might have. If you’re experiencing negative side effects or have heard news stories that a certain medication might be harmful, it’s pivotal to have a conversation with your doctor. They might be able to reduce your dosage or switch to a different option. And if you’re having trouble paying for a name-brand medication, you should absolutely ask your doctor about whether there are any less expensive alternatives.

Taking control of your healthcare might feel unnatural at first. But if you can cite the top four reasons for auto body damage and you can’t answer basic questions about your health, that’s a problem. It might be a challenge at first. After all, you’re probably used to being able to blindly trust the professionals. But by facilitating a dialogue between you and your physician, you can gain better peace of mind and the knowledge that you’re doing everything possible to advocate for your own well-being (or that of your kids).