Talking about Medical Tests with Your Health Care Team

Whether you're healthy or ill, there are a variety of medical tests your health care team might recommend for you. A yearly checkup often includes routine tests such as blood sugar and cholesterol levels, vision and hearing assessments, tests for heart functioning and others used to monitor a chronic condition—such as a lung function test for those with asthma.

You may also be tested to diagnose or confirm the presence of a disease, or to see how well a particular treatment or medication is working. Regardless of the reason for the test, make sure you know the answers to these important questions:

  • What tests will I have?
  • How should I prepare for these tests?
  • Why have these tests been ordered?
  • What will the tests show?
  • What should I do after the test results are in?
  • How will I be informed of the test results?
  • What are the potential risks and benefits of these tests?
  • How will the test results affect further treatment decisions?
  • Does insurance cover the test? What are your out-of-pocket costs?

After a test is done, it’s important to follow up for your results. Ask your doctor when you can expect results and call to follow-up. Doctors’ offices and labs are busy places and sometimes, tests can get lost or delayed. Don’t assume no news is good news. CALL.

Where can you learn more about the test you’re getting? These websites can help you learn more about diagnostic and lab tests so you feel more prepared to discuss them with your doctor.

How Should You Prepare for a Medical Test?

Some medical tests may require specific preparation, such as fasting before checking your blood sugar levels. While you should get specific recommendations from your doctor’s office, these websites explain how to prepare for common medical tests:

What Screening Tests Should You Get?

You should consult with your doctor to determine what screening tests you need. Doctors will consider your age, your sex, your family history and other factors to determine if a specific test is recommended. Screening tests are used to detect disease before symptoms ever appear. The goal of screening is to find disease early so that it can be managed or reduce the likelihood that the disease will make you critically ill.

Resources reviewed June 2013

Who’s Who in Your Doctor’s Office
Medical offices have a lot of staff but one common goal—helping you, the patient. Here are some of the people you may meet during your doctor’s appointment.
Getting the Most Out of a Doctor’s Appointment
Doctor’s appointments are often brief. Here’s how to quickly explain what’s wrong so you can get the help you need.
Talking About Medical Tests
Before you agree to medical tests, here are suggestions for some questions to ask, useful websites for understanding medical tests and information about disease screening.
Asking Your Doctor Questions
One of the most important things you can do during a doctor’s appointment is to ask questions. Here’s advice on what to ask and how.
Understanding a New Prescription
Have a new prescription? Here’s what you need to know about taking any new drug and advice for selecting a pharmacy and paying for medications.
Talking About Your Symptoms
Tips on how to research your symptoms online and describe them during your doctor visit.


Find Good Health Care Find Good Health Care | The quality of doctors and hospitals varies. Here is information to help you find the right care. More

Pay for Your Healthcare Pay For Your Healthcare | Learn more about health insurance terms, selecting a plan, and Medicare and Medicaid. Plus, resources for help with paying for prescriptions. More

Communicate with Your Doctors Communicate With Your Doctors | Advice on how to explain your symptoms, talk to doctors and ask the right questions about tests and prescriptions. More

Organize Your Health Care Organize Your Health Care | Tips for doctors' appointments, managing health records and dealing with illness and work. More

Make Good Treatment Decisions Make Good Treatment Decisions | Treatment may involve making important decisions. Here's advice on understanding your options, including watchful waiting and getting a second opinion. More

Participate in Your Treatment Participate In Your Treatment | How to manage medical treatments at home, including medications and dealing with side effects. More

Seek Knowledge About Your Health Seek Knowledge About Your Health | Advice on understanding your risk for disease(s) and finding online health information you can trust. More

Get Preventative Health Care Get Preventative Health Care | Advice about physical check-ups, disease screening, dental exams, vaccinations and immunizations. More

Promote Your Health Promote Your Health | Information on healthy lifestyles, improving health habits and help with common concerns, such as weight loss and exercise, pain and depression. More

Plan for Your End of Life Care Plan for Your End-of-Life Care | Information on caregiving, long-term and nursing care, palliative and hospice care and advance directives. More

New App for iPhone: AfterShock