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Being a “Difficult” Patient: Six Tips for Success

Patients have plenty of complaints about the medical industry—everything from long waits to high costs to hospital infections. And many of those complaints are quite reasonable—the industry is far from perfect.

However, doctors have complaints about patients too. Patients don’t normally hear those complaints; however, how you’re perceived by your doctor can have an effect on your treatment—and the level of care you get. Here are a few tips for avoiding the “difficult patient” label in the doctor’s office or retirement communities.

Always get there on time

Angry Man

The medical industry isn’t perfect. But doctors have legitimate complaints about patients as well. Avoid being labeled difficult, and you’re likely to get better treatment—even if your doctor doesn’t mean to show a preference between patients.

Doctors are known for keeping patients waiting. However, many doctors will tell you that the long wait times in their offices are caused because patients themselves get there late. Even if you know you’ll be kept cooling your heels in the waiting room for half an hour, show up early. You never know—this could be the lucky day when the doctor can see you on time.

Don’t ask for extra services

Avoid putting an extra burden on your assisted living facility or doctor’s  staff. Ask them for what’s needed within the scope of their jobs—but don’t ask them to arrange a ride to the pharmacy for you or run downstairs to put  money in your meter. The more unnecessary work you cause for the staff, the more you’ll be seen as a challenge to deal with.

Tell your doctor if you’re not taking your medication—and why

One of the biggest doctor pet peeves is patients who don’t take their meds. But if they don’t ask and you don’t speak up, they may not realize there’s a good reason why you’re not taking those medications. For example, maybe the side effects are too severe, you can’t afford the non-generic version, or don’t think the drugs are working. Never stop taking the meds or take a smaller dose without telling the doctor—and expect the doctor not to notice.

Let the doctor be the doctor

It’s easy to self-diagnose these days. There are a wealth of websites that will give you in-depth information on any health complaint—and the best ways to treat it. But your doctor has gone to medical school, and you haven’t (presumably). Allow your doctor to do his or her job. Tell the symptoms instead of diagnosing yourself. Don’t tell the doctor which test to order—instead ask if that particular test you want would make sense for your case.

Come prepared

You may not get more than fifteen or twenty minutes of your doctor’s time. Because of this, it’s a good idea to come prepared with a list of questions. Don’t ask your doctor anything complicated just as the session is over—it will make him or her late for the next patient, and possibly annoyed with you. Ask your questions at the beginning of the appointment, not the end—if you wait, you’ll likely be an annoyance rather than an informed patient.

If your list of questions is particularly exhaustive, it’s possible that you won’t get time to ask them all. If that’s the case, prioritize. Mark down which questions are most important to ask—and go through the rest if you have time.

The medical industry isn’t perfect. But doctors have legitimate complaints about patients as well. Avoid being labeled difficult, and you’re likely to get better treatment—even if your doctor doesn’t mean to show a preference between patients. Always come prepared with questions, arrive on time for appointments, and ask questions rather than telling the doctor how to do his or her job. Don’t expect unreasonable services from the staff, and bring up concerns about medication with your doctor rather than deciding not to take your medicine. If you do, you’re likely to have a more positive experience at the doctor’s office—and receive better treatment.