Six Things Patients Do That Frustrate Their Doctors

With all the Internet doctor rating sites, health insurance ratings and online board certification databases to check, many people today have a low tolerance for bad doctors.

But after your smiling physicians say goodbye and shut the office-room doors, there's a good chance that they wish they could rate you.

A frequently cited 1999 study in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that doctors find up to 15 percent of patient visits "difficult."

In a more recent article in the same journal, published in February of this year, 449 internists and family practitioners surveyed said major difficulties arose when patients appeared to be dissatisfied with their care or when patients had unrealistic expectations.

But, beyond personality differences, many doctors run into patients with bad habits, which makes diagnosing and treating them seem maddening.

The following is a formal and informal collection of the top doctor-irking habits by patients.

Frustration No. 1: Meddling Families in the Room

The first time a young person goes into the check-up room alone can be a rite of passage, of sorts. But a small percentage of adults never take that step.

About 16 percent of all patients bring a companion -- a spouse, adult child, parent or friend -- to their doctor's appointments, according to a 2002 study in The Journal of Family Practice.

While many find that the comfort and support helps them through their appointment, the crowd can sometimes interfere with a doctor's work or a patient's well-being.

"You get a husband and wife in a room and one is overweight and one of them is not, and the other starts saying, 'See, I told you so,' if you talk about weight," said Dr. Keith Ayoob, a nutrition and obesity specialist at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City.

Such distractions may impede the doctor's ability to communicate, or the patient's ability to discuss his or her symptoms.

Dr. Sharon Hull and Dr. Karen Broquet offered this advice regarding companions in the doctor's office in the June 2007 edition of Family Practice Management.

"When patients have companions in the exam room, be sure to speak directly to the patient, avoid taking sides in any conflict, and evaluate all parties' understanding of the information and the management plan," they wrote.

Hull and Broquet also suggested steps to discern whether the patient actually wants the companion present or is feeling manipulated into bringing the person.

Frustration No 2: Keeping Mum About the Herbs

When it comes to most herbal supplements, the medical community and the general public may, indeed, have reached a fragile consensus -- namely, that these remedies do not count as drugs. Doctors often discount the effectiveness of herbal supplements, and patients often believe that the so-called natural origin of these preparations sets them apart from other medications.

But when it comes to drug interactions, doctors are interested to know what supplements their patients are taking -- and patients aren't always willing to fess up on their own.

"Often, if they don't tell you what supplements they're taking, it's not until the point that they have a potentially serious reaction that you know they're taking one that might interfere with their other drugs," said Dr. John Sutherland, director emeritus of the Northeast Iowa Medical Education Foundation in Waterloo.

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