Can’t keep a clear head at doctor visits? Keep a notepad handy instead.

[ 1 ] July 13, 2011 |

Have you ever been to the doctor for yourself or your child and left the appointment confused? Maybe as the doctor spoke to you, your toddler was busy wiggling around and you nodded along to instructions without really listening. Maybe you were too worried to pay attention to what the doctor was saying. Maybe words were used that you did not understand.

To understand what needs to be done to stay well or to get better, keep these three simple questions in mind every time you go to the doctor:

1. What is my (or my child’s) main problem?
2. What do I (or my child) need to do?
3. Why is it important for me (or my child) to do this?

As patients, it’s important to know that you should not feel rushed or embarrassed if you do not understand something. You can ask your doctor, nurse or pharmacist a question as many times as you need to, and remember that you are not alone if you find things confusing. If you are not clear on an answer, you might say, “This is new to me. Will you please explain this to me one more time?” Studies show that people who understand health instructions make fewer mistakes when they take their medicine or prepare for a medical procedure. They may also get well sooner or be able to better manage a chronic health condition.

What to bring along to the doctor:

  • The 3 questions (see above)
  • A notebook and pen to write down instructions you will need to remember later
  • A friend or family member to help
  • A list of questions about how you’ve (or your child) been feeling
  • A list of all medications that you (or your child) take

Ask Me 3 is a patient education program designed to promote communication between health care providers and patients in order to improve health outcomes. The program encourages patients to understand the answers to three questions. For more information, please visit the National Patient Safety Foundation.

About Neighborhood. Founded in 1994, Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island (Neighborhood) is a not-for-profit Health Management Organization that partners Rhode Island’s Community Health Centers and others to improve access to high quality health care in Rhode Island.  Neighborhood contracts with the state of Rhode Island to administer the RIte Care program and is the #7 Medicaid health plan in America and the top ranked Medicaid health plan in Rhode Island according to joint rankings by US News & World Report and the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA). Low or no cost health insurance for kids and families, if you quality. Visit Neighborhood online at or on Facebook at

Category: wellness

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  1. Elyse Major elyse says:

    gee, get distracted at pediatrician appointments? never! good advice to pack a pad!

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