How can a patient get a doctor to really pay attention?
Dr. Heart2: You say, “You know, I’ve heard a lot about you, I’ve heard you’re a great doctor, and I’m really glad that I finally got a chance to come see you.” Something like that. That sets things up extremely nicely. Even if it’s a white lie.
Dr. Baby: The truth is, we’ll spend more time with patients we like. We’ll joke with them, we’ll laugh with them. You have fun with patients you like. People who are obnoxious and pushy, we get the business done and get on with it.
Dr. Heart1: Yeah, you know. I’m on vacation this week. I’m taking “vacation from home,” and I have six patients in the hospitals. I went in to see two of them, and the other four I signed out to another physician. I went to see the two I like.
Is it a good idea to give a doctor a gift if you like the way she’s treated you? Or do doctors feel like they’re being bribed?
Dr. Baby: I think if you had a great experience—if you really have a beautiful baby, say—you can send fruit baskets to the office for the girls. A scarf, a bottle of wine. It doesn’t have to be costly, but personalized is nice. You know, “We talked about your favorite color, and this is something in your favorite color.” Who doesn’t like getting presents?
Dr. Lung: I personally am not into them.
Dr. Virus: They make me feel slimy, but I have received them.
Dr. Heart1: Referring good patients is also appreciated. The stereotypical good patient is successful, professional, able to pay his bills. The less medically complicated, the better. When you think you are doing your doctor a favor by referring everyone you know—and you’re referring them your noodge mother-in-law whom you can’t stand—that’s not cool.
Getting a Doctor’s Attention
“You have fun with patients you like. People who are obnoxious and pushy, we get the business done and get on with it.”
Are doctors unduly influenced by drug companies?
Dr. Virus: I don’t think that doctors make dangerous decisions because of the influence of the drug companies. But I think we make very expensive decisions. There’s an antibiotic for $10 and there’s an antibiotic for $150. I had dinner last night with the $150 guys, and it might be theoretically marginally better. There might be reasons that I prescribe it, and one might be that I liked my steak dinner. You’ll get well either way on the cheap one or the expensive one, but this way I’ll have another steak dinner. It’s low-level bribery—there’s no question about it. I used to go out to dinner with these guys, and I stopped because I found it too gross for words.
Dr. Lung: I used to be in charge of a department, and I told my unit that I’m not going to support big dinners where they take twenty doctors out. If you’re friends with one particular rep, then you can go as friends. But I’ve always felt that they’re expecting something in return.
Dr. Heart2: I am wooed. You know, all doctors are wooed. But the true excess is not in the pens and the steak dinners. It’s the relationships pharmaceutical companies develop with hospitals that are much more nefarious than buying a doctor a steak dinner. Companies strike deals with hospital pharmacies to provide their drugs at a low cost to get patients using them. Then they price the drug at a later date any which way they want.
What are the best and worst times to go to a hospital?
Dr. Baby: Labor and delivery is meant to be a totally functioning unit seven days a week, 24 hours a day. Holidays can actually be great. If you happen to be in an unavoidable labor situation on a holiday weekend, it’s probably not going to be that busy, because everybody that could have been delivered electively has already delivered and all the scheduled sections are done, so you’re going to have maybe even better care.
Dr. Lung: July is the worst. In the hospitals where they have training programs, which most New York hospitals do, July seems to be a very bad month to go because they have new residents coming in. Studies have shown this. Also, another bad time to go is change-of-shift time. In most hospitals, it’s seven or eight in the morning—and eleven to one at night. The old doctor may not tell everything to the new doctor.
Dr. Heart1: I think June would be there right in competition with July. Everybody is sort of tired and looking for next year, they have senioritis, and they’re taking things for granted. You know, in July, you come in, the interns are extra-cautious and things like that. The best time is six months in. That’s when everyone has hit their stride, people have a lot of energy, enthusiasm, so on and so forth.