10 Things Patients Do That Frustrate Their Doctors

Karen Lee Richards Health Guide
  • Most of us could make a list of the things doctors do that frustrate us, but have you ever thought about what things we do that may frustrate our doctors? 

    You may be frustrating your doctor without realizing it if you...

    1.  Stop taking medication without telling your doctor.

    This is not only frustrating for the doctor, it can be downright dangerous for the patient.  Doctors prescribe medications for a reason.  Contrary to what some people think, they don't get kickbacks or make money for prescribing drugs

    Discontinuing or cutting back on the dose of a medication prescribed for you may seriously jeopardize your health and even your life.  If you're experiencing unpleasant side effects or can't afford the medication, tell your doctor so he can try a less expensive drug or one with fewer side effects. 

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    2.  Fail to mention vitamins, herbal supplements, homeopathic remedies and over-the-counter medications you take.

    Because they can be purchased without a prescription or are labeled “natural,” you may think they're not important and not list them when asked what medications you're taking.  Or maybe you're afraid your doctor may be critical and not approve of what you're taking.  While some doctors may discount the effectiveness of various supplements, your doctor needs to know if you're taking them because they can have serious interactions with some medications.  Just because something can be purchased without a prescription doesn't mean it is harmless.  Fess up and let your doctor know everything you're taking.

    3.  Demand a prescription for a medication advertised on TV.

    It's ok to ask your doctor if a medication you saw advertised might be appropriate for you, but let him make the call.  There could be many reasons why a particular medication might not be the best thing for you based on your individual condition and medical history. 

    Also remember that medications advertised may still be fairly new and the pharmaceutical companies are advertising in an effort to recoup the money they spent on research and development of the drug as well as, of course, to make as big a profit as possible.  Your doctor may be more comfortable prescribing a medication that has a longer track record for safety and efficacy. 

    4.  Self-diagnose based on something you read on the Internet. 

    Most doctors appreciate well-informed, patients who want to learn more about their illness.  But a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.  Sometimes easy access to medical information on the Internet leads us to feel like we know more than our doctors.  However, doing many hours of research online still can't compare to the years your doctor has spent in medical school and practicing medicine. While it's fine to ask your doctor if a particular condition may explain your symptoms, leave the final diagnosis to the doctor.  If you don't feel her diagnosis is correct, get a second opinion from another doctor.

    5.  Present your doctor with a pile of Internet printouts on your condition.

  • Although your doctor may appreciate the fact that you are making the effort to educate yourself on your condition, he doesn't have time to read printouts from a dozen different Web sites you found.  Having said that, it's also true that doctors may have a hard time keeping up with all the new research – especially family doctors who have to cover a wide range of different medical problems.  So what should you do? 

    Try to stick to sharing new research that has been published in a peer-reviewed journal.  Doctors are not going to make a diagnosis or consider a treatment protocol based on an article written by a reporter or a patient.  They need to know there is solid scientific research behind it.  It's also best to ask your doctor if he would be willing to read something before thrusting a handful of papers at him. 

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    6.  Expect a pill to substitute for making lifestyle changes.

    I'm afraid our fast-paced society has caused many of us to expect quick results with a minimum of effort.  We'd rather take a pill than make needed lifestyle changes.  It's easier to take medication than to change our diet, exercise more or quit smoking.  But it's very frustrating for a doctor to be expected to write a prescription for something that would be better resolved by making healthier lifestyle choices. 

    7.  Wait until the doctor has finished taking notes and is ready to walk out the door to mention a new symptom. 

    Doctors usually have a waiting room full of patients and a limited amount of time they can spend with each individual patient.  They want to give you quality care and meet your needs, but it's not fair to them to drag out the appointment with last-minute requests and questions. 

    Try making a list ahead of time of everything you need to discuss with your doctor, then give her a copy at the beginning of the appointment.  That way your doctor will know what to expect and you won't take a chance on forgetting something important.

    8.  Bring meddling family members into the exam room.

    I have mixed feelings about this one.  If a patient is having trouble getting the doctor to believe how much pain she is having, is intimidated by the doctor, or has trouble remembering everything the doctor says, I often recommend taking a close family member to the appointment for support and to take notes.

    On the other hand, a family member who tries to take over the appointment, contradicts the patient, or has an “I told you so” attitude toward the patient can be more of a hinderance than a help.  It's important for the doctor to communicate directly with the patient, so if you need to take a family member with you, make sure it's someone who won't interfere with your doctor-patient relationship.

    9.  Come to the appointment with an obvious chip on your shoulder.

    Many of us have had bad experiences with one or more doctors.  When that happens – especially when it has happened multiple times – it's easy to develop resentment, anger, and a distrust of doctors in general.  The problem is, those feelings usually show up in your tone of voice and body language and put the doctor on the defensive from the outset.  When you go to see a new doctor, try to remember that this doctor is not responsible for your past negative experiences and go in with as positive an attitude as you can muster.

  • 10.  Are less than honest about habits and lifestyle choices.

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    It's tempting to “fudge” or stretch the truth a little when filling out medical forms.  Who doesn't want to be seen as living a cleaner, healthier lifestyle than we actually do when it comes to things like diet, exercise, smoking, alcohol consumption and safe sex? 

    The problem is, those little white lies can sometimes have serious consequences.  For example, alcohol alters the effects and side effects of most drugs.  Sometimes it reduces the effectiveness of the medication; other times it increased the sedating effects.  And when combined with something like acetaminophen, it can result in liver damage.  Being less than honest about how much alcohol you drink makes it extremely difficult for your doctor to prescribe the right type and dose of medication. 


Published On: March 31, 2010