By Tom Chiarella
First you remind the person what you are thanking them for.
Then you tell them why. That's it.
A good thank-you note is a clear and ruddy piece of prose. There are only
two moves involved. First you remind the person what you are thanking them for.
Then you tell them why. That's it. You sign off, sure. And you might throw in
an extra sentence or two for a laugh or a private joke. But it's mostly a
chop-chop exercise: two solid, sincere sentences, each touching...
"Some patients have the attitude, 'I'm putting myself in the hands of a
professional,'" says Stephen Permut, MD, chairman of family and community
medicine at Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia. "They want
you to make all their decisions for them."
Permut prefers to have patients get involved in their own care and engage
the doctor in a cooperative effort to determine the best course of action.
So if you want to help your doctor help you, you need to help your doctor.
1. Prepare for your doctor visit in advance.
A recent review of 33 studies showed that patients who filled out a detailed
checklist before an office visit, or received in-office coaching that focused
on their health status, asked more questions during their doctor visit and got
more satisfaction from the visit.
"Keep a symptom diary," advises Terrie Wurzbacher, MD, a Navy physician for
more than three decades and author of a book titled Your Doctor Said What?
Exposing the Communication Gap.
"You may think you can remember everything," says Wurzbacher, "but by the
time you get to see the doctor you will have forgotten the majority of what you
wanted to tell the doctor, and it's important for the doctor to know the
progression of the problem. Be specific. Explain that it all began with belly
pain, and then you developed diarrhea, and so on."
Write down all of your medical problems, and also the names and the dosages
of the medications you're taking. Once you've written it all down, make a copy
and give it to the nurse when you arrive for your doctor visit. She'll add it
to your medical records.
"You know the doctor is going to look at that before seeing you," says
2. Explain how you're feeling.
You know better than anyone else how you feel, and that information is vital
to your doctor. That's why Permut prefers to take a patient's medical history
Has your appetite increased or decreased? Are you having trouble sleeping?
Do you have any pains? How's your mood? Your sex drive? Are you feeling
"I prefer to see the reaction on their face when I ask the questions," he
says. "A bunch of studies show that 85 to 95 percent of diagnoses can be made
by the medical history alone. Listening is what being a physician is all about.
It's amazing what you can accomplish in 10 to 15 minutes."
3. Know what medications you're taking.
Are you taking any prescription drugs? If so, make sure you know the name of
each drug, the dosage you're taking, and the number of times a day you take it.
"That includes herbal remedies and over-the-counter drugs, too - even
multivitamins," says Permut.