5 Things Doctors Wish Their Patients Knew

Ever wonder what goes on in your doctor's mind? Here are five things doctors wish their patients would know.

Sanaz Majd, MD
8-minute read
Episode #202

Someone recently asked me a very interesting and controversial question. What would I truly wish my patients would know about their medical care? It made me think. There are so many details I wish patients knew that I cannot possibly include all of them here.

But here's a sample of what goes through my mind as a practicing primary care physician: all this fascination with the numerous medical TV shows and news in the past decade, why can’t we doctors just simply give a straight answer? Why are people obsessed with non-evidence-based gimmicks created to simply deflate their wallet? Dr. Oz, why do you do this to your integrity?  Honestly, it’s depressing to see other physicians lose themselves in this world full of temptation and deception. We need to be honest with our patients—whether it’s in social media, TV, or in the office. How else can we live with ourselves and sleep at night?

One word: integrity.

So what would I want my patients to personally know as a primary care physician striving for premium patient advocacy and education? Here’s my top five list

1.  Know What Medications You Are Taking

You have one body, one mind, one life. Please learn as much as you possibly can about it (and not from the Internet!). I always find it a tad comical when a patient comes to see me to complain about a certain medication they are taking, without knowing the name or dose.

“It’s a little white pill, Doc. You must know which one it is.” The truth is doctors don’t know. Because there is an endless list of “little white pills”on the market. Generic drugs are also often manufactured by multiple pharmaceutical companies, so they can come in almost any size, shape, or color. There is no way that doctors can keep up with that type of rapidly changing information.

“Don’t you have it in the computer, Dr. Majd?” I do hear this one I hear quite often. Here’s what you need to know about me and many other doctors—we will ask you what medications you are taking at every single visit. Yes, we have a list of your filled prescriptions in the electronic medical records (EMR) system, but just because they are listed there doesn’t mean that the patient is actually taking and ingesting them. And even if they are, it doesn’t mean they are taking it exactly as prescribed. I cannot tell you how many inconsistencies of patient medications I find on a daily basis—more than I care to think about.

Imagine you end up in the Emergency Room for something unexpected (as ER visits often are). And it’s a facility that does not share medical records with your private doctor’s office (as they commonly don’t). They ask you what medications you are taking. Oh-oh … what to do? You are there for severe abdominal pain, are puking your guts out … and they need it now. It cannot wait. Their decision-making often depends on your prior diagnoses and medication lists.

So, yes…please take charge of your own health and understand:

1.   What medications you are taking

2.   The dosage of each medication

3.    How many times a day you are taking each one

4.   And just as importantly, for what indication you are taking each drug for

If you feel more comfortable carrying a medication list with you on a piece of paper, you may do so … even though it’s not quite the same as truly understanding it all inside and out.  What I find, unfortunately, is that patients who whip these pieces of paper out of their wallets have inconsistencies on their lists, and are not keeping it updated. If you do decide to keep a list in your wallet, please update it every single time a change is made to that list (including over-the-counter drugs you take or change on your own, and medications that specialists manage or tweak).

If remembering these long and complex-sounding drug names is too much of a challenge (which is quite understandable), another option is to bring your bottles to every single office visit.  But please make certain that you have grabbed all the bottles you take (including OTCs).

I have a patient that brings me her bottles every time. And about every other visit, I find either a double bottle of a drug that she’s taking both of inadvertently, or she leaves one or few bottles at home but “swears” she’s taking it. I’m never sure what she’s actually consuming on a daily visit. She even neared dialysis because of her medication bottle inconsistencies.  I worry about her every time I see her.

2.  The Common Cold, Flu, and Acute Bronchitis Are Viruses

The winter season brings a seemingly endless list of patients with viral syndromes to the doctor’s office. Viruses thrive in the cold environment, and therefore, tend to run rampant during these months. They are much, much more common than bacterial illnesses.  And are not treatable with antibiotics. Yes, antibiotics do not do a thing for those sometimes just-as-nasty viruses.

And antibiotics are not harmless. They have very serious consequences and risks, especially when used unnecessarily. Please listen to my previous podcast on this very important topic that I honestly believe every single person should be aware of.  Because unfortunately, I too often see a patient who requests antibiotics to treat their “sore throat” or “runny nose.” Not that these symptoms are for the light-hearted … certainly not. They are downright invasive, and sometimes debilitating, for a short period of time. But it doesn’t mean they are bacterial.

How can you tell if you have a virus (versus a bacteria)? I’ve discussed that one, too.  In order to save yourself and your family members an unnecessary visit to the doctor for something that is, yes, highly disrupting and ill-producing, but that self-resolves within 7-10 days without producing any red flags (such as shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, inability to break a fever with various OTC meds, etc.), make sure to understand when it’s viral and when it’s possibly something more serious.


Please note that all content here is strictly for informational purposes only. This content does not substitute any medical advice, and does not replace any medical judgment or reasoning by your own personal health provider. Please always seek a licensed physician in your area regarding all health related questions and issues.

About the Author

Sanaz Majd, MD

Dr. Sanaz Majd is a board-certified Family Medicine physician who graduated from Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia. Her special interests are women's health and patient education.