AHRQ launches app to help patients preplan questions for doctors

The app, called Question Builder, lets consumers input their health information and then brings up potential questions for them to ask their doctors.
By Laura Lovett
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Photo credit: AHRQ

Figuring out the right questions to ask a doctor during a short visit can be stressful, but the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality is attempting to help remedy this issue with a new app called Question Builder. The app is free and lets patients figure out the appropriate questions and medical information for them when they take a trip to their doctor. The technology was developed with consumer and provider input. 

Designed to help patients organize their visits, users are asked when the appointment is scheduled for and the reason for it. The system can then give users suggested questions based on this information. It also includes educational materials explaining why asking these questions is important, and a camera component where users can upload visuals and documents. 

Why it matters

The average doctor’s visit in the US last less than 25 minutes, meaning getting all of those questions in can be challenging. 

“Patients can get better care by preparing to ask questions about their care and communicating effectively with their doctors, nurses, and other providers,” Dr. Jeff Brady, who directs AHRQ’s Center for Quality Improvement and Patient Safety, 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.”

What's the trend 

Provider organizations are also coming up with online resources to help consumers decide the best questions to ask clinicians. The Cleveland Clinic has a webpage with potential questions split into sections about symptoms or diagnosis, treatment, surgery and safety. 

The National Institute on Aging has also put together a checklist-type page with questions to ask when talking to a doctor. 

On the record 

“AHRQ’s new question builder app helps patients and providers get the most out of each and every patient visit by using information to achieve the best outcomes for patients,” Gopal Khanna, AHRQ Director, said in a statement. “As Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar has made clear, we must create a healthcare system that pays for value. Nothing is more valuable than maximizing the time patients and providers spend together.”