The Interpersonal Skills of a Porcupine
Doctors shouldn't be surprised that patients often focus on nonclinical aspects of the encounter, says Ken Hertz, a principal with MGMA Health Care Consulting Group. "Most of us civilians don't know whether a doctor is clinically strong or not. We assume they're competent. But we know that doctors -- like other people -- have personalities, and we get particularly cranky if a doctor has the interpersonal skills of a porcupine."
Some doctors may complain that they shouldn't earn poor marks on the basis of their interpersonal skills and that patients are oblivious to the behind-the-scenes pressures they face. Be that as it may, experts say, the bar has been set.
"Healthcare now is a retail service, like banking or tax preparation," says King. "People expect to be able to drive right up, walk in, and have the same experience they can have in a restaurant or retail establishment. The standards that consumers of food and financial services have are the same standards patients have for their physicians. In some ways, it's unfair to the doctor, but it is the reality."
What Patients Frequently Gripe About
So, what sets patients off?
Bedside manner. In this category, it's often about attitude. Three closely related complaints -- perceived arrogance, indifference, and poor listening skills -- seem to form a damning trifecta.
"Dr. X is uncaring and egotistical," a Georgia patient writes on RateMDs. "The doctor has a very inflated sense of self-importance, and those are the worst in the profession," says a Yelp reviewer in Washington, DC. "Just because my labor was not progressing as fast as she thought it should, she became very threatening and condescending to me," a RateMDs reviewer writes of her ob/gyn. "When asking her my options, she told me I do not know anything because I did not go to medical school and she has been doing this for 10 years and proceeded to give me her resume and experience."
Indifference. A closely related complaint -- indifference- is likewise a pet peeve. Patients expect their doctor to be familiar with their chart; to listen to their complaints; to take the time to address their problems; and, above all , to want to help. Too often, according to the grievances voiced on the rating sites, that's not the message physicians are telegraphing.
"Acts like he is ABOVE patients and doesn't care what you say," an Ohio reviewer writes of his pain management physician. "Doesn't listen and doesn't care about what the patient wants," a California patient laments about her dermatologist. "I felt rushed, and you seemed impatient to answer any questions I might have," a Yelp reviewer in Washington, DC, writes.
An Ohio patient complains on Vitals that his pain management physician prescribes "medications that I have already tried and failed in performance or had adverse reactions, which makes me conclude that he hasn't read my chart/medical history. Gets easily frustrated when I ask questions, or comment on a repetition of a treatment."
Customer service. Patients are chastising practices for falling short on several fronts. Not surprisingly, long waiting times feature prominently, as do rude treatment by front office staff, poor access, and billing disputes. But many patients likewise describe poor follow-up -- whether it's with test results or telephone calls -- as a prime reason for their dissatisfaction:
• "Unavailable for follow-up after hip prosthesis dislocation. Offered to see me in 6 weeks! This doctor basically did not want to see me again."
• "Had me get a CAT scan done to determine whether or not I had a lung tumor. I called after the customary couple of work days for an answer. (One does want an answer about such things.) I called every day for a week, and was assured every day that my doctor would call me back before closing with the results. Nobody in the office could find the results all week, or be bothered to contact me."
• "I never got a letter, phone call, email, text, nothing at all that they had moved! After 15 years of going every year, I think I deserve better."
• "They do not call back with test results EVER and have failed to call in prescriptions when they promised to. They also have this habit of putting on their answering machine message to avoid calls in the afternoons while they are still in the office. And of course they do not monitor the messages, so there is literally no way to get hold of them."
Medscape Business of Medicine © 2014 WebMD, LLC
Cite this: Top Complaints Posted on Doc-Rating Websites - Medscape - Feb 20, 2014.