How to be a good patient

This handout was posted in our exam rooms.
We want you to get the best care possible in this office and hope to care for you for many years to come. If there is anything we can do to give you better care, please let us know. Yet there are some expectations we have for our patients. We ask that you read the list below and do your best to abide by these suggestions:

  1. Do not apologize for your symptoms – It is a very self-conscious thing to be sitting on the exam table. You can fill kind of stupid at times when your symptoms don’t seem to make sense. But if you had these symptoms, then please tell us what they are. It is not your fault that they don’t make sense.
  2. Wear many layers of clothing – We generally have no idea if our office will be hot or cold. Some mysterious person controls that and we have yet to locate them. Hence, you should come prepared for a freezing cold room or a furnace.
  3. Kids are sometimes not perfect – Since we take care of many children, we have come upon the great truth: kids are not always sedate and obedient. This may be a shock for some parents (who the rest of us resent), but we do realize that your children may misbehave sometimes. We don’t think you are a horrible parent because your child is not “seen but not heard.”
  4. Earwax is not embarrassing – It is a mystery why people always apologize about earwax. It is not a moral defect that brought the wax to your ears, and we won’t go home and tell our families about the wax we see in your ear. It’s OK to have wax. Honest!
  5. We believe you – When your child has had a fever for 5 days and then that fever disappears the moment you step into the office, we don’t think you made the fever up. And please, if your body fluids are a different color that normal; do not bring in a sample for us to see. Just tell us what it looked like. Please!
  6. “No news is good news” is a lie – If a reasonable amount of time has passed and you have not heard the results of a test, please contact us. We have a better system than most offices at keeping track of things, but things can be lost, ignored, or forgotten.
  7. The most precious thing you can give us is trustYou should never put your life into someone’s hands that you don’t trust. That does not mean you can’t question us (please do!), but it does mean that if you don’t trust our judgment, then it is probably time to find another doctor. We are happy to say that this does not happen very often.
  8. Stinky diapers smell bad – Please don’t stick them in the trash can. There is nothing subtle about that smell. We have special bags for that kind of thing.
  9. There is no such thing as a dumb question – except for one you should have asked, but did not. If you are confused about something you have been told, please ask someone to clarify it.
  10. Don’t save the most important thing for the “oh by the way” question at the end of your visit – It may be an uncomfortable thing you want to ask, or you may be scared you have a horrible disease, but if something is really worrying you, please ask it early in your visit.

Hopefully these guidelines will help you as you strive to be the “perfect patient.” If you stick to these guidelines, perhaps we will name a wing after you or take your birthday as a holiday. Who knows?

33 thoughts on “How to be a good patient”

  1. What an awesome set of guidelines! The “oh by the way” questions are my favorites. You never know what someone will ask as they’re walking out the door… and your implication that this may be the most important part of the patient visit certainly matches my own experience.

  2. What an awesome set of guidelines! The “oh by the way” questions are my favorites. You never know what someone will ask as they’re walking out the door… and your implication that this may be the most important part of the patient visit certainly matches my own experience.

  3. How to be a good patient « Im-Patient

    […] How to be a good patient How to be a good patient […]

  4. Excellent list.I would add #11. It’s OK if you are not perfect taking your medicines. Don’t be embarassed. Tell us why you are having difficulty. Is it cost? side effects? too many times a day? We can’t help you if we don’t know exactly what you are taking.

  5. Excellent list.I would add #11. It’s OK if you are not perfect taking your medicines. Don’t be embarassed. Tell us why you are having difficulty. Is it cost? side effects? too many times a day? We can’t help you if we don’t know exactly what you are taking.

  6. For the older crowd: Bringing in a list of your medications and the times you take them (not to mention a brief outline of your medical/surgical history), saves time and leaves more time to address your primary concern.

  7. For the older crowd: Bringing in a list of your medications and the times you take them (not to mention a brief outline of your medical/surgical history), saves time and leaves more time to address your primary concern.

  8. Thank you Wes and Matthew. I agree with your additions. I am actually going to make a set of guidelines for adults and their medicines – I think this is such a big issue that it deserves separate attention.
    Rositta: Is that really the case? You need to find a new doctor then. You are paying him, remember.

  9. Thank you Wes and Matthew. I agree with your additions. I am actually going to make a set of guidelines for adults and their medicines – I think this is such a big issue that it deserves separate attention.
    Rositta: Is that really the case? You need to find a new doctor then. You are paying him, remember.

  10. Great post! As a lifelong patient who always seems to have contradictory symptoms, I am especially fond of #1–I’m only just getting comfortable with the whole “not apologizing” phenomenon.

  11. Great post! As a lifelong patient who always seems to have contradictory symptoms, I am especially fond of #1–I’m only just getting comfortable with the whole “not apologizing” phenomenon.

  12. I cannot tell you how many times patients apologize for their rash improving when they see me. I usually say something like, don’t apologize; I have a very good imagination — just tell me what it used to look like. 🙂

  13. I cannot tell you how many times patients apologize for their rash improving when they see me. I usually say something like, don’t apologize; I have a very good imagination — just tell me what it used to look like. 🙂

  14. This list should be titled “how to be a good customer for a doctor”.You are looking only from one point of view. Your!
    Try to re-write the list adding the patient’s point of view.
    It’ll be enriching even if you don’t reach the goal.
    Stop worrying about stinky diapers and take care of your people!!!!!
    You could suggest some little change in attitude that promote big changes in care’s response… an so on.
    we are waiting!!!!!!! 😉
    http://mauriziosalamone.blogspot.com/

  15. This list should be titled “how to be a good customer for a doctor”.You are looking only from one point of view. Your!
    Try to re-write the list adding the patient’s point of view.
    It’ll be enriching even if you don’t reach the goal.
    Stop worrying about stinky diapers and take care of your people!!!!!
    You could suggest some little change in attitude that promote big changes in care’s response… an so on.
    we are waiting!!!!!!! 😉
    http://mauriziosalamone.blogspot.com/

  16. Of course this is written from my perspective. But as you read the list, it is trying to put the patients’ minds at rest about their usual fears. If you read the rest of this blog, it should be evident that I don’t just care about me.
    By the way, the stinky diapers is a huge issue in pediatrics. It is mostly something for subsequent patients who have to endure the stench. This is a patient-care issue.

  17. Of course this is written from my perspective. But as you read the list, it is trying to put the patients’ minds at rest about their usual fears. If you read the rest of this blog, it should be evident that I don’t just care about me.
    By the way, the stinky diapers is a huge issue in pediatrics. It is mostly something for subsequent patients who have to endure the stench. This is a patient-care issue.

  18. Similar to (but not quite the same) as rositta and her “only two questions” it has (at least it seems to me) become common practice for every doctor I have visited (whether it be for myself or child or parent) to be overbooked, and at least seem to be in a rush.
    To counteract this problem (and to avoid the “oh by the way” issue) is to come in with as many questions as I can already written down, so I don’t “forget” what I want to ask.

  19. Similar to (but not quite the same) as rositta and her “only two questions” it has (at least it seems to me) become common practice for every doctor I have visited (whether it be for myself or child or parent) to be overbooked, and at least seem to be in a rush.
    To counteract this problem (and to avoid the “oh by the way” issue) is to come in with as many questions as I can already written down, so I don’t “forget” what I want to ask.

  20. I appreciate the list of ways to be a good patient; however, is there a list of ways to be a good doctor? I have found, having been on both sides of the issue, that it is a two-way street. I recently was in the hospital for an emergency surgery and received excellent care and was told by several healthcare workers, I was a “good patient.”My main question is: When did the patient start getting rated, good or bad?

  21. I appreciate the list of ways to be a good patient; however, is there a list of ways to be a good doctor? I have found, having been on both sides of the issue, that it is a two-way street. I recently was in the hospital for an emergency surgery and received excellent care and was told by several healthcare workers, I was a “good patient.”My main question is: When did the patient start getting rated, good or bad?

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