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Additions late 5/30/11: First, once again the comment discussion has colored some people’s view, including mine, of this discussion. That’s good. Second, in response to comments, I made a couple of edits, striking through the old text, and tonight I discovered the strike-throughs didn’t take. I’ve fixed that, but I apologize for any confusion. Anyway, please do read the comments!

The following is my opinion, not the Society’s, and asks for your opinion, especially if you’re a member of the Society. (It only costs $30 to join, but as always, everyone’s welcome to discuss here.)

Participatory medicine is a two way street. You don’t get to be a passive lump and call yourself an empowered, engaged patient.

Last week CNN’s “Empowered Patient” correspondent Elizabeth Cohen posted something about this that popped up tonight in social media: 10 Dumb Things You Do at the Doctor’s Office. It generated a bit of disagreement on Twitter tonight. What do you think? Here’s what happened.

First, our Society’s social media team noted it on our Facebook page, and tweeted it, with this lead-in from the article:

‎”I know many of you are programmed not to question your doctor, but we can’t read your mind, so we need you to…”

It came up during tonight’s #hcsm, and someone said the article made good points but was “framed and titled disrespectfully” to patients. Well, let’s discuss.

First, here are a few of the ten “dumb” things. For the rest, go to the whole article:

1. You talk on your cell phone.

This is your health we’re talking about. Other calls can wait. Turn the thing off.

My opinion? Yeah, you’re being it’s dumb (and rude) if you consume your doctor’s precious face time (or butt time) with a phone call. Dumb. And if you think that’s disrespectful of me, okay, I think you’re being dumb. that’s dumb too.:) This is healthcare! Partner with your clinicians! Be involved, not timeslicing!

2. You lie.

“I need to treat you the best way I can, so if you’re gay, tell me. If you drink a bottle of tequila every night, I need to know… I won’t judge.”

I’m no expert, but in my travels I’ve heard from many doctors and nurses things like “Then we find out he …..” Really, people, it’s dumb if you don’t tell your care team things they need to know! Be responsible for your side of the communication!

Skipping ahead…

6. You don’t know what medications you’re taking.

“Patients should bring a list of medications they’re actually taking, not what they believe they are supposed to be taking, or what they think I want them to take…”

Right. And I was recently guilty of this – when I visited my primary, Dr. Sands, I knew that in addition to my one blood pressure pill, I was taking several supplements, but I didn’t know the specifics. So I went home and sent him the specifics. But really, it was sloppy, lazy, and a little bit irresponsible of me not to know – and I’m willing to say yeah, that was dumb.

After all, how many times have you heard “Bring a list of your current medications?” Perhaps not enough.

Perhaps your Society should develop an e-patient checklist – and if we do, I think it should include all 10 of these items.


Update June 3: See our follow-up post, about Sue Woods’s terrific take on what she would say on the 10 dumb things.

Would you like to join our social media team? We’re always open to people who “get it” about social media, and who actually have bandwidth to commit to the team: occasional meeting calls, regular “socmed” duties, etc. Write to volunteers at


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