He Helps You To Understand

Lifehacker.com recently linked to a WikiHow post, about maximizing the efficiency of a patient's time with his or her doctor. The article is pretty good, with tips like:

Describe your basic reasons for the visit in one or two sentences.

Recall the onset and timing of your symptoms. Include starts, stops and frequency.

Explain what makes the pain better or worse.

...Do not wait till the end of the meeting to say "...and, by the way, I have this other pain".

Good advice. I never really knew this, before medical school -- I was naive enough to think my physician would love to hear a pre-med's theories about his ear pain. But now I can't believe we don't hand this out, pamphlet-style, in the waiting room.

The one item on the list that Lifehacker should have paid closer attention to was this one:

Start talking to the doctor about your symptoms, not what you think your diagnosis is...

Because a few days ago they linked to WebMD's symptom checker, which is an arbitrary mix of commonsense medicine and diseases lifted from the Hypochondriac Hall of Fame (that back pain could be a muscle strain... or dermatomyositis... or kidney cancer! Ask your doctor about starting chemo).

What'd be great is if Lifehacker editors read each other's posts, or, better yet, web-based symptom checkers were based on the same cardinal questions doctors ask patients (the Revolution Health checker is a step in that direction).