May 1, 2019

You Forgot to Ask...

People often forget questions they meant to ask their doctors. Now there's an app to help you make the most of your doctor visit.

It happens to everyone: you go to the doctor intending to ask a question and then forget to do it. Sometimes it's nerves; sometimes something else comes up in those 20 minutes or so, and by the time you realize you've forgotten, you are halfway home.

Now there's a free app to remind you to ask those questions . All you have to do is remember to bring along your tablet or smartphone and turn it on.

“Patients can get better care by preparing to ask questions about their care and communicating effectively with their doctors, nurses, and other providers.”

The app, called QuestionBuilder, was designed by The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), an organization within the United States Department of Health & Human Services.

The app can suggest common questions patients often ask their doctors. It also allows you to enter specific questions of your own. You can save your questions in advance of an upcoming visit or email them to your doctor. It also lets you store photos, which can be useful when it comes to capturing developing conditions, such as a skin rash. You can also use the app to take notes during a visit, which can come in handy if your doctor prescribes something with a name like obiltoxaximab or clocortolone.

Those worried about the privacy of their medical information will be glad to know that QuestionBuilder does not keep any data within the app; it stores it in your device's memory. If you send this information in an email or store it on your calendar, however, the provider of those services is likely to have a copy of the information.

“Patients can get better care by preparing to ask questions about their care and communicating effectively with their doctors, nurses, and other providers,” the director of AHRQ’s Center for Quality Improvement and Patient Safety, Jeff Brady, said in a statement. “Asking questions to make sure patients understand instructions and other aspects of their care can help reduce the chance of missed diagnoses, identify the right tests that are needed, and avoid unnecessary hospital stays,” he explained.

QuestionBuilder is available for both Apple and Android devices. People who don't have a tablet or smartphone can use the app online. Those who consider this too high tech a solution for such a simple problem can always take a written or printed list of their questions along on their next doctor visit.

An article on QuestionBuilder appears in JAMA.

NOTE: We regret that we cannot answer personal medical questions.
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