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What Your Doctor Is Really Thinking

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How to Be the Perfect Patient

Q. Do doctors care how well groomed I am?

A. Putting off an appointment because you're due for a waxing is unnecessary. "This isn't a beauty contest; we're trying to take care of your health," Dr. Fryhofer says. "Patients will say, 'I forgot to shave my legs,' and I laugh to myself, because I'd never notice that," adds Dr. Savard.

Q. What do doctors wish patients would do more often?

A. They simply want patients to be prepared. For a visit to a new doctor, this includes arriving with a detailed list of the medications you're taking and knowledge of your family medical history. And mention your most pressing concern at the start. "It's terrible when you've spent the entire time evaluating a hemorrhoid only to find out, as you're walking out the door, that what's really bothering the patient is chest pain," says Dr. Savard.

Q. What do you think of patients who bring in information from the Internet?

A. Printouts are welcome -- provided you're getting them from a reputable source, such as or That said, "It can take a big chunk of an appointment to dispel inaccurate notions a patient has learned from an Internet story," says Dr. Karen. Adds Dr. Roach, "It's tough when I hear 'Someone told me about this online, and I think you should order the following tests.'" A better bet: Bring in a solid research study or a newspaper article and ask how the findings relate to your particular case.

Q. Will requesting a second opinion burn bridges with my original doc?

A. No, our experts say, but they share a distaste for being made to feel like they need to fight to keep patients. "You might tell your MD, 'I'd like to see someone else to make sure we're not missing anything,'" says Dr. Savard. Don't dump a trusted doc solely over a diagnosis disagreement. Medical matters are rarely black and white, so multiple perspectives can help.

Originally published in FITNESS magazine, July 2008.


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