Narrowcast Medical Note to Doctors and Patients

06/01/2005 02:20 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Do ask, do tell.

Nearly every one of 253 adults asked said that their doctors should ask them about family stress and conflict, even when that conflict extended to violence.

In contrast, only about a third of these people said that their doctors actually did inquire about these crucial aspects of physical and emotional well-being.

This appeared in today's issue of the Annals of Family Medicine in a paper entitled "Patients' Advice to Physicians About Intervening in Family Conflict" by Sandra K. Burge, Ph.D.and her coauthors.

The study's participants went on to express their feelings about doctors who do not ask "open-ended" questions about family issues. Yes, doctors should let patients talk. Amazing new concept.

I am often asked to give speeches about "How to Talk to Your Doctor." I usually begin by saying that patients should speak slowly, use small words and periodically tap the MD on the nose with a small stick. I am being facetious, of course. Or, at least semi-facetious.

Bring a fruit basket. Doctors and their staffs respond to simple acts of (nutritional) kindness. Besides, we're usually hungry and don't need any more cookies.

Doctors don't have the time we used to have and the myriad reasons have been detailed in lots of magazine and newspaper articles. Simply, our overhead costs go up, keeping good employees costs lots of money and insurance reimbursement per patient goes down or, at best, stays the same. Seeing more patients quicker becomes the only option for some physicians and groups.

Oh, we're doing fine thank you and even drive nice cars, but the proliferation of limited-choice plans (HMOs, PPOs, and others) has removed some of the incentives to do better than "C minus" work. Patients think (wrongly!!) that they are stuck with their doctors.

Would you put up with an employer-mandated food plan only letting you go to McDonald's, KFC and other garbage food purveyors?? A government-inflicted breathing plan that forced you to breathe polluted air?? Ooops, forget that last one. We do that. Nevermind.

When questions go unasked and unanswered, that's not good medicine and it's dangerous!

Fire those docs, please.