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    Solving problem patients

    Research suggests patient encounters are deteriorating, but solutions are at hand

    Rude and disrespectful patient behavior. Being late for appointments. And patients complaining about fees, co-pays, and more. 

    These are some of urologists’ biggest gripes with patients, according to a single-question UrologyTimes.com poll conducted in December 2017. The top two gripes: About 41% of the respondents were unnerved by patients’ rude and disrespectful behavior and 21% indicated patients’ complaints about fees, co-pays, etc. bothered them most. In third place, 17% said they were most bothered by patients’ over-reliance on Internet information. 

    Also see: When it’s time to part ways with a patient

    In write-in responses, a number of urologists took issue with patients’ obesity, poor lifestyle choices, and lack of patience. “They don’t take care of themselves and then want me to fix them,” wrote one respondent.

    Separately, in Urology Times’ 2017 State of the Specialty survey, three-fourths of the respondents indicated that under-appreciative and unreasonable patients contribute somewhat or very much to their feeling burned out.

    U.S. urologists are not alone. A 2018 study published in BMJ Open (2018; 8:e017361) reveals family doctors in England are suffering from the emotional impact of their daily workload, confrontational patients, and more. In-depth interviews with 47 general practitioners showed one of three main sources of distress was related to dealing with abusive or confrontational patients.

    Problem patients have long been a challenge in medicine. In a study published in the emergency medicine literature, researchers reported that as many as 15% to 30% of patient encounters were difficult (Emerg Med Clin North Am 1998; 16:689-700).

    Next: “In my opinion, the challenges arise from a variety of factors—some societal and some institutional."

    Lisette Hilton
    Lisette Hilton, president of Words Come Alive, has written about health care, the science and business of medicine, fitness and wellness ...


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