Moving Us Closer To Osler
A Miller Coulson Academy of Clinical Excellence Initiative

5 open-ended questions to learn more about your patient

"How did you and your partner first meet?"


Asking patients open-ended questions can reveal their fears and worries. This might help you better address their concerns.

A high quality relationship between clinicians and patients may improve health outcomes due to more open and honest communication between patients and doctors. One component of developing and strengthening a close connection is a thoughtful relationship-centered interview. Purposeful questions imbued with curiosity and compassion are a start. Here are 5 open-ended questions which may add depth to conversations with patients:


1. What health concerns do you have?

This question shows interest in the patient’s health priorities. The hope is they’ll feel comfortable expressing their own goals.


2. What are you most worried could be wrong?

This gets at the patient’s real underlying concerns. Beyond arriving at an accurate diagnosis, full reassurance requires addressing these worries.


3. What’s life been like for you during the pandemic?

Asking about pandemic experiences can reveal the patient’s challenges during the pandemic and may help you address their concerns.


4. How did you and your partner meet?

I’ve learned so much about my patients’ life contexts from this question. Simple questions about job, marital status, and children are important, but this question conveys curiosity. For patients who are single, you can ask about the important people in their life.


3. Can you tell me more?

This simple prompt demonstrates sincere interest in a patient’s story. You may learn more information about your patient, which is helpful for both diagnosis and cultivating a deeper connection.