Some of the initial questions I ask a patient are: What brought you into the hospital? What can I do for you today? Tell me your understanding of what is going on?
These questions often sound so arbitrary and so redundant given what are generally provided to us before we even see a patient: We have reasons for referral written in the chart. We have the verbal handover from another physician. We make assumptions of affluence based on a person’s appearance.
However, it is always surprising how often there is a disconnect. For example, I once treated a patient who was a retired internal medicine doctor per the chart. Even as I spoke I realized that he was not following the medical terminology. It turned out afterwards that partly this was due to a language barrier (he was a physician in a different country), he had been retired for many years, and partly because he had some early dementia.
As the stories above illustrate, it never hurts to ask before starting.