Day 56: Give people witty medical advice

October 29, 2010 § Leave a comment

The following type of article is called a “service piece.”  The idea is that you find a statistic from a recent study, contact some professionals in the field to give their opinion, and then extrapolate tips to give to readers. For instance, Stephanie’s latest “Real Simple” has article titles on the cover that read “8 tips to use your credit cards wisely” and “6 ways to avoid the common cold” – both examples of a service piece. Here is mine:

‘Til Antibiotics Do Us Part: 5 Tips to Ensure Success at the Doctor’s Office

Medicine is going mobile. A recent study by the Pew Research Center found that 17 percent of cell phone users have looked up health or medical information on their phone, and 9 percent have applications that allow them to manage their health and wellness.

As much as you may wish it, that smart phone isn’t going to replace your physician anytime soon. Until Motorola or Samsung figure out how to have your cell check for a hernia, going to the doctor’s office remains a must. However, there are steps you can take to ensure that your next appointment is a productive one. Here are some tips on how to prepare.

Access to the W-E-B Doesn’t Make You an M.D.

“Once patients diagnose themselves, it is very hard to undo,” says Dr. Frederic Ettner, a Chicago-based family practitioner. Self-diagnosis websites can incite fear in patients and can make doctors defensive. It is important to be aware of your symptoms, but leave it to your physician to put the pieces together.

History of Your Body, Part 1

Knowing your medical history is a must. Be aware of present and past prescriptions, says Dr. Katherine Neldner, a San Francisco Bay Area practitioner of infectious disease. “Sometimes we’ll even have people bring their prescription bottles in with them.”

Chart it Out

Keep track of when you experience symptoms. “It can be very difficult when people know they’ve been feeling bad but can’t remember how long or can’t remember when this or that symptom happened,” says Dr. Wanda Updike, a practitioner of infectious disease in Salt Lake City. Keep a list of when and where symptoms arise. Establishing a time frame may help your doctor reach a diagnosis.

Hold the Phone

Many doctors consider it a sign of disrespect when your ringtone blasts Lady Gaga in the middle of a prostate exam. “You have to turn it off in an airplane and you have to turn it off in the movie theater,” says Neldner. ”You should have to turn it off in the doctor’s office.”

Show Your Hand

Find a physician you can open up to. Anything can be a factor in medical evaluation, from sexual preference to prior drug use. People think a check up should be a quick in and out, says Ettner. “It’s not like going in and getting your tires rotated or your oil changed.” Divulging personal information can help your doctor guide you down a healthier path.


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