In Sickness and in Health: Seven Things to Know about Healthcare These Days

My 23 year old son says my blog posts are too long.  He says that his generation believes that if you can’t say what you mean in 350 words or less, you’re not worth reading. At the writer’s conference I attended last spring, I learned that books sell best if there are odd numbers in the titles (never mind the commercial success of “Ten Things I Hate About You”).   It has to be 5 or 7, because 6 and 8 just don’t cut it, and those of us old enough to remember know that Bo Derek is the only 10.  So here is my attempt at listing important things to know about how medicine works these days, in no particular order.

  1.  No news is NOT good news anymore.  The days of doctors calling you with your test results are, for the most part, over.  Do not assume that because you did not get a call, everything is fine.
  2. If we are treating you, please report your side effects so we can help you.  You don’t get brownie points for being a “good patient” by keeping quiet—you just get sicker.
  3. Please do not bring samples of bodily excretions in to the office on toilet paper in plastic bags.  You might make someone sick.  That someone might be the doctor. Brief quantitative and qualitative descriptions work well.
  4. If you need to get your doctor’s attention, one phone call may not be enough even though it should be. Go ahead, be a pain in the ass.  If the person up front gets tired enough of hearing from you, Facebook might be closed out and a message conveyed.
  5. Insurance companies are not your friends.  They will NOT call you back.  If you call and get a phone tree, press “zero” until a human being comes on, and then demand to speak to a supervisor. Your life and  bank account depend on it.
  6. Know the names of your medications and their doses, and if you can’t remember, write them down and put them in your wallet. Please don’t say, “A little yellow pill.”  UNDERSTAND what the pill does. Not knowing can kill you.
  7. Don’t say “I have the flu” when you have a cold or a little upset stomach.  Get your flu shot this fall or you will figure out what the real flu is when you really have it.

I could go on but I won’t.  As they say in obedience training, “Exercise finished!”


  1. First, let me say that I think your son, whom I won’t name for privacy sake, is wrong. I have never thought a blog of yours was too long although I admit I am not in his generation. I love to read your beautiful flowing words that paint pictures I feel I can touch. My heart and soul thank you for that. Please don’t start dropping sentences to conserve on space.

    And then there is today’s blog. It may not be beautiful but it is certainly true. Number three is my favorite. We should post that one on the front door!

    Thank you for another good read.

  2. Well done! As a Perennial Patient, aka PP, I agree this is a nice little list.

    Even with loads of experience, these reminders are excellent, as we all can miss the shot once in a while – patients and doctors both.

    As for phone trees and speaking only with supervisors, I have taken that to the next level and apply it to all phone calls to the corporate world! So much for “patience”.

  3. Another great one.
    Please don’t shorten your posts, I find them interesting, amusing, and absorbing.
    As for the ‘number’ trend, I find them a turn off, I skip past books with titles containing them. Sorry, I’m not trendy:-))))

  4. You know you pegged me at #2. I like your long posts. You aren’t jotting down idle thoughts, you are trying to fold a story into a meaningful order.
    I am just betting the average age of your reader is not 23. I would say 45-70+ ? Maybe that’s the difference; we have chosen to slow down.

  5. Thanks everyone for your kind remarks. I will probably stick to my story telling format, but my son is right about one thing–I need to tighten it up. I’ll be working on that. M

  6. I wish it were so simple as being a pain in the ass: When I have a question for the doc, the nurse calls a day and a half later: (or someone does) and sez: : No, you don’t need antibiotics. If y ou have another question Make an appointment”

    1. You know that I think that this is completely unacceptable. One of my original pieces for this blog was about doctors returning phone calls because it’s the right thing to do. That piece was from Dec 7, 2012 and was titled “I Do Not Need A Concierge.” When that piece was republished on, I must have gotten 150 angry comments from primary care MD’s who said they no longer had time. I had to stop reading the comments I was so upset. Obviously, I am old school and have a healthy sense of guilt about not answering when I am asked a question. M

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