When you enter an exam room, you are purpose driven. Your patients may or may not share your mission. Learn more about your patients’ agenda. Ask patients, “What would you like to accomplish in our time together today?”

In general, patients want to accomplish four things:

  1. Get a diagnosis that explains their symptoms
  2. Get answers to their questions
  3. Make a plan
  4. Know that they are not alone, even when a cure is not possible


  • As you consider your medical options, what’s most important for you?
  • How has the illness impacted your life?
  • How can we optimize the quality of each of your days?
  • If you were going to explain this illness or the options to your friends, what would you say?
  • What frightens you the most about this diagnosis?


Ask you patients how you’re doing. Say, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your medical care? What could we do to win a 10?”