Tag Archives: Patient-doctor relationship

The Waiting Room

I read a post on Facebook, where someone was complaining that they were in their doctor’s office and the doctor was seven minutes late for her appointment. Hearing these type of things really frustrate me. I’ve been on my fair end of long wait times, and believe me I know it sucks, but I promise you it’s just as bad on the other side. Chances are if the doctor is late for your appointment, then she is running behind in general, which ultimately means she’s going to be staying way late to finish everything up.

I understand as a patient what the waiting room feels like, and I encourage other doctors to understand too. Sitting in a waiting room can be a very anxiety-provoking experience. You’re concerned about what the doctor is going to say about your test results, or that she’s going to be upset at you for not taking your meds for the past couple days because you ran out. You’re scared that you won’t be able to express yourself or have enough time for all your questions. You may also be worried that you have to go pick up the kids, or make it to the bank, or that time is running out on your meter.

And then on top of all that stress you are sick. Your exhausted and your body hurts. The only thing you want to be doing is laying in bed, and truthfully it’s what your body should be doing. And maybe you’re hungry. God knows what happens to me when I’m “hangry”. I get dizzy, and my head hurts, and I turn into Oscar the Grouch. You need to be home, but instead you are in the office waiting for what feels like hours.

Doctors don’t like keeping patients waiting, but it happens. Maybe the patient before you came in late, or perhaps someone walked in because they were sick. Or maybe someone had a fifteen minute appointment, but it ran a little long because they had a lot of issues. Sometimes it’s a scheduling issue. Someone from another department accidentally double booked, or even worse, the administration requires time slots to be double-booked.¬†Other times we have a serious emergency where we have a patient who needs to be transferred to the ER. We’ll have to fill out transfer paperwork, update the medication and medical history lists, provide emergent treatment, and keep an eye on the patient til EMS arrives. Sometimes it’s a phone call from another doctor or family member about a patient in the hospital. I remember being locked up in my office on a twenty minute phone call like this, and when I came in to see my next patient, she accused me of sitting around on my computer in my office doing nothing.

For my patient readers, I ask you to be understanding with your doctors. It’s not an easy job, and the truth is when you are the patient who has the emergency or special situation we will give you all the time you need. And for my physician readers, we have to respect our patient’s time as well, keep them in the loop so they don’t feel forgotten,and be considerate of what they are feeling as they wait.

Patient Satisfaction

I read an article titled “Patient Satisfaction is Underrated” on the popular medical forum KevinMD.com. It was written by a medical student who was trying to explain to physicians that it is possible to keep patients happy, without caving in to unrealistic or inappropriate demands. Previous to this, an article was written titled “Patient Satisfaction is Overrated”, which explained that patient satisfaction doesn’t produce better outcomes for patients, and that doctors are under a lot of pressure to score high on patient satisfaction surveys, or fear decreased reimbursements.

There were a lot of mixed emotions in the comments section. A lot of disgruntled replies from doctor who have had their fair share of abuse from patients, administrators, and policy makers. Then there were the doctors who were still holding on to idealistic beliefs. Some fell in between, wanting to have those ideals but realizing it wasn’t always practical.

I think maybe I walk in the middle. From a physicians perspective, I cannot deny that constant pressure from my administrators, patients trying to take advantage of me, and simply being overworked, has not made me a little bitter sometimes. But the patient within me still feels like doctors should still believe that providing patient satisfaction is still important and attainable.

As the former article stated, communication is the key. As physicians, we need to be willing to communicate, and not become jaded by prior experiences. We need to find our passions again, remember why we went into medicine, and find happiness in the good work we do, despite what is happening around us. I feel like happy doctors make happy patients.

As patients, we also have a duty to do. We need to see our doctors as human beings and learn how to trust them. We need to recognize that our doctors are not just two letters behind a name, or a signature on a piece of paper. Our doctors are resources with years of training and knowledge who are ready and willing to help us. We have to stop telling our doctors what we WANT because Google said so, and trust the judgement of our doctors to do what we NEED.

I believe we can change the atmosphere between doctors and patients, so that both patients and doctors are satisfied, but we have to be willing to see each other’s side and work together.