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Asking the right questions

By asking open instead of closed questions, health professionals encourage patients to formulate a longer answer instead of yes/no.

Health professionals can make it easier for all patients to ask questions.

Instead of finishing an appointment by saying Do you have any questions? The easy answer and most likely is No. Instead ask What questions have you got for me?

What is the difference between these two questions?

The difference between closed questions, which you can answer yes/no to, and open questions, which you can’t and are likely to have to provide a longer answer. Open questions, like What questions do you have for me?, give respondents the opportunity to include more information in their answer, including feelings, attitudes and understanding of the subject. This gives patients the chance to formulate a more thorough response, but also provides health professionals with more information about the level of a patient’s understanding of their health and symptoms, but also level of communication. Respondents also often feel less threatened by an open question as it is evident that there is no right or wrong answer.

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Working with Patients with Limited Health Literacy

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