Memo from the Editor: On lying and laying around

August 6, 2001

M.E. EDMEM0806--On lying and laying around

 

Memo From The Editor

On lying and laying around

Marianne Dekker Mattera

I'm writing this memo early—in fact, just two days after I wrote the one for the July 23 issue. For an editor, early is nearly unheard of. We have deadlines and we'll usually meet them, but ahead of schedule is unusual. I like to think it's a matter of prioritizing rather than procrastinating, but I guess you can call it what you will.

Anyway, I'm writing the memo early because when it would ordinarily be due, I plan to be lying around on the beach, coated with plenty of SPF 45 sunscreen, of course. Sadly, when editors write about lying around, we usually run to a style book (Is it lying or laying?) just to double-check. (People lie down, and they lay things down—in case you care.) That process reminded me of a conversation I had with a staffer recently. It was about laying around—specifically how doctors shouldn't be laying copies of Medical Economics around in the waiting room.

"You should do a memo about that," she said.

"That used to be a subject for editor's memos on a regular basis in the old days," I responded. "But maybe it bears repeating."

So, here goes: Doctors, you shouldn't be laying copies of Medical Economics around in the waiting room!

There are lots of articles in the magazine that patients, or those who accompany them, might find interesting—the piece on municipal bonds in this issue, for instance, or the one in the June 18 issue on whether it's a good time to refinance a home loan, or even the two roundtable reports on reshaping American health care.

But most of our articles are meant for doctors' eyes only. Take this issue's story on women physicians' financial picture or last issue's story on retirement funding. No matter how bad the picture might seem—median net worth for women physicians is less than half that of male physicians and doctors are putting just $12,000 a year, on average, into their pension plans—it may not seem bad at all to the patient who's a clerk at the 7-11, making $7 an hour with no retirement plan at all. In fact, she may be more than a little upset by our suggestion that, relatively speaking, things aren't as good as they could be for doctors.

Or what about the articles we run detailing malpractice cases? I'd hate to think that reading one of those gave a patient who's been in an even vaguely similar situation the idea that it might be highly profitable to visit an attorney.

I could go on and on: stories about fraud and abuse, practice management pieces that tell you how to deal with problem patients—I'll bet no one in your waiting room thinks he's a problem patient—or how to collect from deadbeats, or even the new coding column we've introduced to help you get every dollar you're entitled to from third parties (see Coding Consult). All of these can be taken the wrong way by patients—especially patients who might have been sitting around in the waiting room longer than is optimal and might be getting a bit grouchy.

I think you get the picture. We write for your eyes only. You wouldn't invite your patients along when you consult your financial adviser or attorney. Don't invite similar prying by leaving our coverage of doctors' affairs where patients can peer.

 

Marianne Mattera. Memo from the Editor: On lying and laying around. Medical Economics 2001;15:4.