May 6, 2010

Be Cheap!

Cheap Gifts Are Better!

Doctor D has been amazed at all the kind things readers have done for their doctors, but D's a bit disturbed by the funds some of you are putting into your gratitude!

Believe it or not, the less money you spend on thanking your doc the better! A doctor is not your niece at Christmas who will only be impressed if the gift put you in debt. In fact, any gift you obviously spent money on is likely to make your MD uncomfortable.

Reason #1: Lawyers
As I've mentioned before, we doctors live in constant dread of bloodsucking lawyers. A clever lawyer can turn even a friendly gift into a felony, so doctors have all been taught to shun gifts of any value.

A gift worth anything can be legally considered a payment for services. If Doctor D took care of you for free and you give him a gift he loses all of his "Good Samaritan" legal protection and can be sued vigorously. If I accept a gift from someone who already paid through insurance I'm in even more trouble. One of those slippery lawyer-types could point to Doctor D's gift and scream, "Fraud! Kickbacks! Felonies!"

Doctor D likes his job and doesn't want to lose it on a legal technicality, so please keep the gifts worth nothing: a written-in card or some cookies you baked is as valuable as you should go.

Rule of thumb: If your doc could conceivably resell your gift for more than $1 on eBay, don't give it!

Reason #2: Doctors Are Overpaid
Let's face it: physicians aren't hurting for purchasing power.

While the business of keeping a medical practice afloat may be frustrating and getting worse, the actual annual salaries of those of us in medicine are usually much higher than our patients'. Doctor D is in one of the worse paying medical specialties and he still makes almost twice as much as his friends. D isn't getting rich doing this, but he's never going to worry about keeping food on the table.

I also know how much medical care costs: way too much! A serious workup or a chronic illness can bankrupt you. I'm glad you're thankful, but when you bring me an expensive gift after you just paid thousands to be poked, prodded, and embarrassed in the medical meat grinder it just kills me. I don't need things of value. I wish you'd spent the money on yourself, and just written me a heartfelt thank you note.

If you like giving really valuable gifts then give them to teachers or police officers. Those guys sacrifice just as much as doctors to make the world a better place, and the pay they get is just sad.

Listen to Your Inner Cheapskate When You Thank Doctors!
Doctor D tries to politely decline expensive gifts, but it still ends up awkward.

So go cheap: really cheapdon't even worry about paying Hallmark for those fancy cards. The patient gifts that Doctor D treasures most are simple homemade cards, produced with simple paper and pen.

Have you every given or received an expensive gift in a doctor-patient relationship? How did it go? Ever have a gift declined?

What is the coolest "worthless" gift you ever got?

Doctor D always loves to hear your stories in the comments!


Celeste said...

Give gifts that are worthless? I guess that's one way to live. To each his own. I would never give something I couldn't afford to give, though--very little in life is worth going into debt to purchase.

Cate said...

One of my preceptor's patients brings him AWESOME chocolate cookies every time she sees him- I've been fortunate enough to be there for 2 of her appointments... I know he appreciates it, and it shows a great deal of thought.

Anonymous said...

Mostly it works best for me to thank my doctors with words---spoken or written---but I also like the idea of doing something in their honor.

One thing I'd like to do some day is to go to a shelter, adopt three kittens from a litter, and name them after three very special doctors of mine whose surnames I've always thought would make excellent names for cats. The doctors would not be burdened by tangible gifts that they may not want or need, etc., but they would know that they mattered to me a great deal and that their names would be part of my household for years. (I hope it goes without saying that the cats involved would be much loved and cherished in their own right, and not just as vehicles for thanking my doctors!)

tracy said...

i once gave my wonderful Internist a mug around Christmastime...with a couple of (store bought) treats. (Left it at the front desk) About a year and a half later, when i saw him, he mention the mug and how much he liked it, because it "fit so well in his hand."
He may have just been being kind, but it was a nice thing for him to say, anyhow.

i like the kitten naming idea :)

Glen said...

Remember also, that medical staff is are mostly on quite low pay scales. If you gift your doctor with food, it is kind to address it to "Dr. Wonderful and Staff."

I can promise you both doctor and staff will be very pleased.

Anonymous said...

But small gift I ever got was an elephant ornament (made of wood) that is a symbol of love in my friend's family.

Queen of Optimism said...

All if this may have already been mentioned in the previous posts, but here it goes:

I thank in these ways: referring patients, offering testimonials / reviews for my doc's website or marketing materials, carry a load of my doc's business cards in case anyone asks about my doc, and I speak honestly about my doc to other medical professionals. Example, "I appreciate that Dr. PCP chose to send me to you Dr. Specialist. Dr. PCP is top-notch and I respect her recommendation of you." I have also raved about docs to my insurance company.

I also do hand-written thank yous and a Harry and David basket at the winter holidays. Lame, I know but those juicy pears are awesome (and healthier than cookies).

I've said it before and will say it again - I do want to pay my doc for more coordination of care. I recognize my insurance doesn't allow for billing for this and I am all set to make an agreement so this can happen in a timely manner. Got money - will pay.

Great series, Doctor D. As if it's a surprise?!? You're fab and well-loved by me. If this wasn't e-communication, I'd be handing you some cash. :)

Aviva said...

What about handcrafted gifts? Before I got sick, I used to quilt, and I've told my internist that if/when I'm better enough to quilt, she's going to the top of my list.

But my husband is a fabulous woodworker (as a hobby), and I've been thinking of giving one of his smaller creations to my internist. One of his beautiful bowls or bottles wouldn't be an exorbitant gift, but it would definitely have value if she chose to sell it. Is that kosher? (FWIW, all my daughter's teachers will be getting gifts made on my husband's lathe.)

I do what Q does also -- give referrals to friends/acquaintances, give her sky-high ratings on websites and on her practice's annual surveys, tell my specialists that if they have patients who need an *excellent* internist, that she's tops in my book, etc. (Although perhaps I've done too much referring since she used to be a lot easier to get appointments with, but she's much more booked up these days! :-)

I do feel like she, out of all my doctors, spends more time on me than she's getting paid for. I know she will always return my telephone calls and not sound rushed to get off the phone. She does research trying to figure out a diagnosis for me, and talks to various specialists she respects about their thoughts about my case.

Maybe you're right, and I should just put all this in a card/note as a thank you ...

Thanks, Doctor D, for giving me food for thought, as always. :-)

Doctor D said...

Yeah hand-made stuff is great. It creates a lot of personal value but doesn't have much monetary significance. (Unless you're a goldsmith or something like that)

I like the idea of posting positive feedback on doctor rating sites, since a lot of people that post there are trolls who wouldn't give anyone a positive rating.

Thanks for the great idea. I shall go and give a glowing review to my doctor. She deserves it.

Alexandra said...

I craft a lot, so I give little things to the docs I work with.
From my patients I still treasure the cards they give me. I keep them and still smile when I look at them. I also have a stuffed animal that I got from a patient that sits on my computer.

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