Things patients do that drive doctors crazy

Hopefully those of you reading this are courteous to your doctors, but I just feel like venting.  There are various things I see/experience regularly that are very annoying, and I’m sure other doctors feel the same.  Here are some tips to avoid pissing off your doctor:

1. Don’t be late.  The office appointments are scheduled every 15 minutes, so if you’re late, that means that you’re making the patients after you (who showed up on time) wait longer.  We understand if there was a legitimate reason.  Typically the reason for patients being late is something that could have been planned better in advance.  Also, I know that you’ve probably been on time before, and still had to wait a while to see me.  For that I apologize- there are a number of factors that cause that, like the previously mentioned late patients, patients who were complicated and required more time, etc.  We really do our best to stay on time, and appreciate if you could help us out by being punctual.

2. Don’t come with a laundry list of unrelated complaints.  I can tackle two or three top issues, but it’s unreasonable to expect to discuss all of your gazillion complaints adequately in a 15 minute visit.  It takes a while to delve into each issue- to ask you about the details, examine accordingly, and decide what to do next.  If you bring up too many complaints, what will happen is that we will not be able to discuss each one in the detail it deserves.  Please, we appreciate it if we can keep it to a few key issues, and if you really have other issues that you need to discuss, then please come back for another appointment.  If possible, we can try to help you by making a phone appointment for the second appointment if appropriate.

3. Don’t tell us what to do.  So you Googled your symptoms, and you think you need an MRI.  We understand that many patients look up stuff online these days.  But if you straight up tell your doctor that you want an MRI, my reaction in all honestly will be anger.  I went to 4 years of medical school, 4 years of residency training, and have gained however many years of clinical experience in my field since then, and you think that after Googling your symptoms that you know what you need?!  The results will be much better if you tell me in detail your symptoms and why you’re worried, and then ask- do you think an MRI is appropriate for this?  And if I say no, listen to why.  I have good reasons behind it.  We’ll try the initial steps, and if your symptoms persist and we don’t get answers, then we can go to the next step.

4. Put away the phone.  Lately, this has been more of an issue with the partners of my patients.  If you are coming into the exam room as a guest, then be part of the conversation and stop looking at your phone during the visit.  Otherwise you might as well stay in the waiting room.  I understand if some women pull out their phones to look at their list of questions, or need to use their phone to distract themselves during the Pap smear.  Or even if you forgot to put your phone on silent and it rings, I get it.  But when you actually take the call and don’t immediately say, “I’m at the doctor’s, let me call you back” that is appallingly rude.  As an aside, I’ve also noticed some people lately who are too quick to text/post on Facebook the delivery of their baby.  As in, I’m stitching their vaginal laceration, and they’re already texting.  Enjoy the moment- life is happening RIGHT HERE.  The social media updates can wait.

5. Stop emailing about every little question.  I think the ability for patients to email their doctors is great.  For appropriate non-urgent questions, email is often more convenient than phone, since it doesn’t require playing phone tag, which often occurs when I try to call back patients who have called the office.  But we doctors get weary when some patients have to email about every little thing.  Yes, I know you’re pregnant and you’re worried about what’s going to affect your baby.  But there is this little thing called Google.  Although you can’t trust everything on the Internet, sometimes these types of minor questions have reliable places where you can find answers.  Also, if you’d listened to me in the first place and got that pregnancy book and subscribed to the pregnancy email newsletters and text4baby, these questions may have already been answered.

6. Don’t call or email and ask for an off work note.  Every so often, I get a message from a patient who called, or an email saying, “I haven’t felt well, please write me a note for off work yesterday and the day before.”  Although I generally oblige, it does irk me.  If you were that ill, you should have needed to be seen in the office or at least had a phone appointment to discuss, and preferably at the time of the illness.  Shoot, I would love to so easily call my doctor and ask for an off work note when I feel mildly ill.

7. Remember that doctors are people, too.  Thankfully, this happens rarely, but sometimes a patient is so mean and rude that she makes a doctor cry.  One of my colleagues recently had a patient that made her cry after the visit ended.  The patient went to complain after the visit, and when she and her friend spoke to the office manager, it turned out the friend had recorded the encounter.  The unbelievable thing was that the recording implicated them, in that they had discussed PRIOR to the encounter that they were going to make a fuss.  This is unusual, but in general we do get patients once in a while who are really rude to the receptionists, medical assistants, and/or the doctors.  This is not acceptable behavior.

Most of you out there are courteous patients that your doctors appreciate.  Maybe you’re one of the ones we really enjoy seeing, and who brighten our day.  I do want to acknowledge that most people are not the above people, and for that we doctors are grateful.

For the other docs out there, anything else you’d add?

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