Examining patients’ and doctors’ pet peeves

petpeeve

A few years ago, I slapped a doctor.  Three times.  It wasn’t premeditated or motivated by something he said; he just kept jabbing a tongue depressor into my mouth without giving me any warning (like the common, “One…two…three”), and a reflex made my hand thrust up and slap him away.  He seemed mildly annoyed each time, but otherwise unperturbed, and would try again, without asking what was wrong or how we could fix the situation.

Although most don’t involve slapping, not all doctor’s appointments go well.  According to a recent study that examined doctor reviews on sites like RateMDs, Yelp, and Vitals, the most frequent complaints from patients are:

– poor bedside manner

– poor customer service

– lack of medical skills

This last one might sound a little over-the-top; after all, how would most patients be able to judge doctors’ knowledge?  Well, by actually having been given incorrect diagnoses, according to comments on the sites.

Of course, there are two sides to every story.  Just as I’m sure the doctor I slapped was as happy when I left his office as I was, I’m also sure doctors have some pet peeves about their patients. I found a list of some of those, too:

– self-diagnosis and suggesting treatment

– not taking prescribed medications, and lying about it

– asking a ton of questions just as the appointment is coming to an end

– expecting the doctor’s office to organize things like transport, parking meter payment, etc.

– lateness

Unfortunately, it turns out there’s more to both doctors’ and patients’ complaints than just frustration and annoyance.  On the patient side, a study published in early 2015 from the University of Exeter Medical School reveals that individuals who think their doctor doesn’t seem interested in them, or doesn’t believe or accept the symptoms they’re describing, will usually feel distressed and angry.  This seems logical, but what’s worrisome is that strong negative feelings like these can have a major impact on a person’s health and wellbeing.  For example, countless studies have proven that chronically angry people are at higher risk for heart problems.

Doctors may not have it any easier.  In a troubling essay, Dr. Sandeep Jauhar explores and explains the reasons behind statistics like these: “30% to 40% of practicing physicians wouldn’t choose to enter the medical profession if they were deciding on a career again” and “In a 2008 survey of 12,000 physicians, only 6% described their morale as positive.”  For Jauhar, everything from the changing role and perception of doctors in our society, to increased paperwork are responsible – and issues with patients don’t help, either.

Doctor or patient, if only we could all just stop and think about the person on the other side of the examining table.  If we want to fix these problems, it seems like it’s going to take a lot of work, on a lot of different levels. But maybe we need to get started.  Although the major cause of low morale on the doctors’ end seems to be tied to current medical administration and hospital work issues, if each of us thought about that list of pet peeves and tried to avoid being guilty of them at our next appointment, that could surely help a little.  And if doctors could consider that patients want medical competence but also bedside manner, that would go a long way, as well – and, according to the University of Exeter study, maybe even save lives.

by Alysa Salzberg

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