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Memo From the Editor: Help me!


M.E. EDMEM0521Help me!


Memo From The Editor

Help me!

By Marianne Dekker Mattera

You hear that plea every day from every patient you see. Perhaps not those exact words—maybe it's "My back hurts," or "I wake up with stomach pains every night," or "I have trouble breathing"—but the message is the same: "I need your help."

And you give it, to the best of your ability, because that's why you became a doctor, to help people.

That's why I became a journalist, too. With every word we print, we're trying to help our readers. Sometimes all an article does is entertain, but it helps the reader relax. The vast majority of what we publish, though, is aimed at providing a service to doctors—practice management advice that will allow you to help people effectively and efficiently, financial information that will help you make the most of your hard-earned dollars, legal guidance that will help you protect yourself, career moves that can help you balance practice and family life.

You get feedback every day that tells you how effective your help is, what your strong points are, and areas in which you can improve. Your patients tell you, sometimes in words, sometimes in the progress they make in controlling a chronic condition, sometimes just by their absence—they've gotten better and you won't see them for a while.

Every now and then, we get personal feedback, too. Just the other day, we got a really concrete, in-person testament that our work is valued: A jogger walked into the lobby of our New Jersey headquarters and announced himself at the reception desk as a doctor. He said he'd like to see someone in the customer service department.

Seems he was visiting relatives in the area and was out for a jog when he passed our building, saw the sign, and realized he hadn't gotten any copies of Medical Economics in a while. So he figured he'd jog on in and see what the problem was.

A few minutes later, after a customer service rep got all the information necessary to put him back on the mailing list, the doctor left, a happy camper—or at least a happy jogger. And we had the satisfaction of knowing that our publication is helpful enough to that doctor that he went out of his way to make sure he kept getting it.

More often, though, our readers phone us or send e-mails. Sometimes there are complaints, usually there are compliments, and almost always there's a request for specific information. A plea for help: "What are the problems in a productivity-based pay structure?" "Do you have any figures on the malpractice insurance rates in Illinois and Pennsylvania?" "How do I find a reputable financial adviser?"

But most of the calls we get ask about income, or fees, or productivity. You call us because for decades we've been collecting the most reputable data in the country through our Continuing Survey of physicians in office-based private practice.

And through the Continuing Survey, doctors and editors both fulfill our mission to help people. We help you by collecting the numbers, tabulating them, analyzing them, publishing them, and answering your questions about them when you call or write. But we can't do any of that unless you help us first—by giving us the numbers.

Each year we mail thousands and thousands of questionnaires to doctors just like you asking for those numbers. If you get one—or if you got one in the last week or so, but have set it aside—please take the time to fill it out and send it back. Help us help you!


Marianne Mattera. Memo From the Editor: Help me!. Medical Economics 2001;10:4.

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