Dear Doctor,

To The Person in the White Coat Who is Supposed to Care About Me,

Hey Buster,

To Whom It May Concern,

I recently read an article from my go-to news source since turning fifty and I got tired of deleting them from my inbox, the online AARP Bulletin.

I’m sure a huge percentage of your clientele is AARP-affiliated. You might even be one of them.

Maybe you were even responsible for the article prompting this letter.

The article I’m referring to is “Five Things Your Doctor Dislikes About You: Don’t Be Labeled a Difficult Patient.”

I won’t lie to you, I’m hurt. And now I’m hesitant to make an appointment to see if you can make the pain stop.

Didn’t you choose this “helping profession” to help people–other than your stock broker, luxury car salesperson, and real estate agent?

Didn’t anyone tell you that people, even people like you, aren’t always easy to get along with, especially when stressed or feeling like crap? Which is why they came to see you? Because it’s your job to help them? Are you following me here?

I know you work, but so do lots of other people.

Maybe it’s not fair that some of your patients don’t live up to your expectations–or don’t live at all–but at least you get paid mega-more than other people (e.g., nurses’ aides, social workers, teachers’ assistants, anyone in the service industry) who have to deal with stressed out freak-pots way more than you do.

Plus you can medicate the people who really bug you. The rest of us just have to deal with them.

Back to the article…

What don’t you like about me?

1. You hate it when I keep you waiting.

Wha-ha-hat? When has that ever happened in modern history?

There’s a reason that I’m called the patient. I sit around and patiently wait for you, Doc. Not the other way around. I’ve been ushered into an examining room early because I arrived early, having been told that someone missed his/her appointment. You didn’t wait for that “someone,” Doc. You saw me instead. No waiting for you.

Maybe I don’t get undressed quickly enough for you. Is that it?

No. I seem to linger quite a while in the Paper Half-Gown studying the anatomy of the ear canal (or something worse) until you finally come in.

2. I treat your office staff as my personal assistants. I wish.

The article tells of two anecdotes where patients inappropriately asked office staff to do favors for them. Why didn’t your staff just decline? Afraid they’ll shop around for another doctor?

Unlikely. A study in The Journal of Family Practice showed that approximately 80% of patients stayed with their primary care doctor over the 3-year study period.

People tend to stick with their provider (cable, telephone, health care) even if there are glitches every once in a while.

And every time I need a referral to a specialist, your staff insists on making the appointment for me. So don’t blame me for their control issues.

3. I don’t tell you when I’m not taking my meds.

Okay. Legitimate point. This is a problem.

But tell me this: how do you know that I’m not taking my meds as prescribed if I tell you that I am? Do I have a mole in my house–and I don’t mean a four-legged one, although Scrappy might “talk” for a meatball…

4. I diagnose my own medical problems and tell you how to treat them.

Okay. You’re the expert.

I sort of get that. I taught sociology and had students try to get college credit for the class just because they lived in a society. That always amused me. So I see where you’re coming from.

But you aren’t the total authority on ME (that would be “me,” as as in Lorna, not “ME” as in Medical Examiner, who, by the way, I’m trying to avoid).

You’re trained to fix my sorry arse when it’s already in trouble. I’m interested in keeping it out of trouble. So what if I do some prevention research?

And who created Web MD, anyway? Doctors must have had a say in that project. Why have it lurking out there if not for people like me to use?

Maybe you find me annoying because we’re working at cross-purposes. I’m trying to stay healthy and you’re trying to cure me when I get sick.

5. I start asking questions just you are leaving.

Well excuse me! I find it difficult to formulate complete, coherent queries while your cold hands are groping, probing or otherwise fiddling with me.

Plus I’m not used to thinking on my feet while I’m semi-naked and not on my feet.

Why the rush, anyway? You don’t want to be kept waiting by your next, fictionally late patient.

***

Listen, Doc. I don’t want to be labeled as a “difficult patient.” But these complaints aren’t making it easy for me to feel very warm and fuzzy about the kind of patient you want me to be.

If I’m reading the tea leaves right, your ideal patient is one who waits for you, asks nothing of your staff, does everything you say without question, and relies only on you for answers.

I’m thinking you want my grandmother for a patient. She, like many in her generation, thought her doctor was a god.

She’s dead.

Sorry Doc. You’re stuck with me.

Sincerely,

Difficult 21st Century Patient”