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. Here's how.
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 Wurzbacher.
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 himself.