I have been ill with a mystery illness for several months/years and have waited a few months for this appointment with you. I have been anxiously awaiting our time together and I have high hopes of finally getting some answers and help. In light of this, will you please look me in the eye when you say “hello”, call me by name, put me at eye level (not towering above me) and attentively listen to my symptoms and story? Please review my chart before you come in so you are not flipping through it while we talk.
My time is important, so please make appointment durations appropriate for your specialty and try to see me on time. I will be on time and flexible but consistent long waits are unacceptable. Will you please consider all possibilities and not rush to judgment based on my gender, appearance, age, or how I describe my symptoms?
Will you order appropriate tests to either prove or disprove any diagnostic theories? Give me the benefit of the doubt, and check it out before you reach or voice conclusions. Please tell me what tests you are ordering and what procedure to follow to obtain results.
Since illness does not always fit into a neat little box of classic signs, symptoms and labs, would you give equal weight to my symptoms, physical exam and test results, and not dismiss abnormalities you cannot explain? Please do a thorough hands-on physical exam as there may be clues my body can reveal to you.
Would you refrain from placating me by saying “I am fine” just because my labs are ok? I know I am not fine, or I would not be here to see you, and perhaps more specific tests need to be ordered.
Will you get back to me in a timely manner on test results, as I am anxious to know if anything showed up to explain my current state of health. Please allow me access to my own test results, and try to explain any abnormal results. If something comes up that you don’t know, please offer to research it or send me to a specialist. I understand that no one knows everything, and your ego is not at stake, my health is.
Hand it to me gently if you have bad news to deliver. Tell me my diagnosis once you reach a conclusion. I want a name for the illness I have. Give me some explanation, some hope, and some direction to go for help and treatment. Give me resource information so I can help myself. Empower me to make the best of what I face, and tell me something about my prognosis and what to expect going forward.
When you prescribe a treatment, help me have realistic expectations of the results in terms of improvement and length of time. If this treatment fails, is there something else to offer? Please have your staff update my medications on every visit so the information is current.
Tell me success stories if you have other patients like me, who finally got answers and finally got better. A positive spin on things, if not unrealistic, gives me hope and something to look forward to.
Please be nice to me and compassionate. I feel awful and do not want to be dismissed, made to feel like a complainer, whiner or drug seeker. I am not neurotic, psychotic or otherwise unstable unless I prove to be over time.
Since I am not a medical person, please communicate with me in plain English, not “medicalese”. Use my language, as I don’t understand yours, with all those complicated names and abbreviations. If you have a medical term, like my diagnosis, that I need to know, write it down so I can see it and spell it.
Please believe me, for I tell the truth, am honest, not confabulating or embellishing, and would not be wasting my time, energy and money to seek help if I truly didn’t need it.
Dig deeply to uncover the problem and find treatments. Don’t give up on me. If something doesn’t work, try something else. This illness impacts my life, which is all I have. Imagine where you would be if you were in my shoes (or your wife, your mother, your sister, your friend, your child).
In return for all this, I will try to be the exemplary patient: compliant with instructions, responsible with appointments, patient when needed, and understanding that not all is always clear and successful. I will realize that you have limitations, problems, other responsibilities, and being a Doctor is your profession, not your whole life. I will do what I can do to make myself better, and be a good team member with you.
Thank you for any and all efforts to comply with my requests. I know yours is not an easy job. As a patient, neither is mine, so we are in this boat together, sink or swim, and I hope we make it safely to the shore together.