I think I annoyed a patient today doing one of the 6 things I am about to list. I am not secure enough to tell you which one (yet.) But it got me thinking. We doctors are guilty of commiserating about annoying patient habits. So, I decided to put together a list of what I think my patients think are the most annoying thing doctors do from the perspective of a doctor who annoys patients that sometimes also annoy her.
Got all that?
Here goes and these are not in any particular order.
1. Ask patients to fill out twenty pages of paper then never even look at them.
This is awkward really. When a new patient comes to my office, they fill out several forms.
I really enjoy chatting while maintaining eye contact with my patient. I like to ask questions and have more of a conversation as opposed to looking down at a pile of papers. Patients sometimes answer a question with a terse “I wrote that on that paper.” Believe me, I will definitely go back and refer to that paper at the end of the day–it really does serve a purpose (even though it may not seem so right then.)
2. Keep patients waiting for 40 minutes then spend ten minutes in the room with them.
Ugh. I could write a thesis on this issue. It really comes down to time management. We doctors get behind for many reasons and I promise you it is NOT because we are scanning Facebook pictures of cats. Once we are behind, it becomes a catch up game. We pray for an “easy patient” to help us recover from the time hemorrhage that just happened. I can diagnose and treat strep throat in five minutes. To me that patient is a God-send. To that patient with a sore throat, I only spent a tiny bit of time relative to how long they waited. For all of you “easy” patients, I am sorry if you feel robbed. All I can say is that one time, you may be the complex patient for whom minutes are borrowed.
3. Tell patients to call anytime–then don’t return their calls.
I despise the phone. I don’t even like talking on the phone with my mother. Besides that now open secret, phone calls are a huge time suck. I would much prefer an email that I can respond to from my laptop at midnight. When I say “give me a call,” what I mean is a text, email or message would be just fine. Of course there are times when there is no substitute for a voice conversation. I usually return those calls at noon or after five. However, there is NO excuse for not getting back to a patient. When that happens it is usually because we did not get the message from our staff. If you prefer to call, make sure to get the name of the person you speak to so we can track back and whoop that employee straight (ok not the last part.)
One note about email. I do love it as a form of communication but trust me, if you want to get a QUICK response from your doctor, keep your email BRIEF. I read emails the way most people read blogs. Bullets or numbered lists are great for me. A single spaced email that looks like pages and pages of words will have to go to lower on the list. I will eventually read it but realize that I read a lot of my email on my iPhone. Have you ever tried to read a 2000 word email on a phone? I need to sit in front of a computer uninterrupted in order read carefully enough to give good advice. My rule is, if an email to your doctor can’t be condensed to about four hundred words, you really should come in for a visit.
4. Leave the room “for a moment while you change” only to return 30 minutes later.
This is a combination of ADD and the catch up that I spoke of earlier. First, if I step out of a patient room, it’s like open season. People come at me from every direction. “What does this mean?” “Do you know about patient so and so?” “The toilet is overflowing.” “Your daughter is on the phone.” Even if I push them all aside, valuable patient minutes are lost. I am also guilty of trying to duck into the next “quick” patient to alleviate that patient’s annoyance at waiting. I have gotten burned trying to take a quick peak at a rash while someone is changing into a gown only to have the “rash” be only a minor reason for the visit.
5. Not know who you are.
Really, in my mind there is no excuse for this. It is just carelessness. I have definitely been caught with both feet deep in my mouth because I did not take that extra minute to review someone’s chart. Believe me, I wish I knew every single patient and every single medication they are on and every specialist they see. Since that is not possible, the least I can do is browse the chart before coming in. I will try harder at that.
6. Not listen.
I am good at two things. Making rice and listening. I truly think this is one of the most important characteristics of being a good doctor. I am not going to lie. Sometimes, I will walk into a room moments after getting terrible news about another patient. As hard as I try, sometimes my mind won’t leave that next call I must make. There are times when I have been up most of the night. It is not necessarily with noble patient care stuff. It may be cleaning up the chocolate milkshake that seemed like a great idea when my 6 year old first told me her tummy hurt or walking off the cappuccino that NEEDED an extra shot at 7 pm. Whatever the reason, I can be tired. And that can make me seem distracted.
I can honestly say that my intentions as a doctor are to provide the best quality care to my patients while remaining kind, patient and sympathetic. Energetic, focused and on time?
Now that is a tall order.
Please share with me the most annoying thing you have found about your doctor (as long as I am not your doctor.)