Sunday, July 06, 2008

But my doctor doesn't listen to me !

It’s all very well to advise patients to become empowered and to take an active interest in their treatment. However many patients complain that if they ask their doctor questions , the doctor gets irritated and often puts them in their place by asking them – “Are you the doctor ? “ or – “Just leave everything up to me - I am the expert. “

So what is the poor patient supposed to do ?

Firstly, try to be empathetic and look at things from your doctor’s point of view. He has lots of patients to see; a limited amount of time; and will do his best to maximize his efficiency and his income by trying to see as many patients as possible.

The trick is not to get scared and stop asking questions , but to learn how to ask questions and which questions to ask.

Here are some suggestions you might find helpful.

1. Do your homework . Be prepared.

2. Tried to find answers for your questions yourself by doing a google search

3. Ask focused questions, which relate to your specific problem

Remember that both you and your doctor have the same interests at heart – both of you want you to get better. Work as partners - you are both on the same side !

It’s a good idea to write your questions down. If you can show him that you have tried to answer them for yourself, he will be much happier to answer the ones which have stumped you !

It’s important to not waste your doctor’s time by asking irrelevant questions. These will often end up irritating your doctor, and you will lose his good will.

Try to be assertive – but not aggressive. It’s not hard to do this, if you are respectful; and ask your doctor’s permission to ask him questions ! If it's not convenient for him to answer your questions in this visit, ask him if you can email him the questions; or get another appointment, when he has more time.

A good doctor understands that it's in his best interests to resolve a patient's doubts and questions - and will do his best to do so.

If , inspite of your best efforts , your doctor is still upset when you ask questions, then this just
means that he is not the right doctor for you - or that you are not the right patient for him. Find another doctor !


  1. Anonymous9:42 PM

    You say to google prior to your visit, but from reading medical blogs it seems that doctors make derogatory comments about patients who come in "clutching" something they've found on the internet.

    Also, I can't afford to spend another $100 or so to make another appt. to ask questions because it's not "convenient" for the dr. to answer them during the original appt.

    I love your blog, BTW. Wish you were my doctor. :)

  2. Anonymous2:37 AM

    What bothered me about your comments was "It’s important to not waste your doctor’s time by asking irrelevant questions. These will often end up irritating your doctor, and you will lose his good will."

    What about our time and wasting it? Who decides what an irrelevant question is? If the patient is asking it, then it's important to them to find out the answer. Lose the doctor's good will...what about the patient's good will. The patient is the one paying the bills.

    We, the patients, are paying the doctor's to provide a service to us.

    Everyone has their own area of expertise and no one is any better than someone else.

    I sometimes think doctors think that patients need to treat doctor's as if they're special and they forget that the patients are, in fact, hiring them to provide a service. They are our employees.

  3. I agree it's hard for a patient to know which questions are relevant and which are not ! I also agree that in an ideal world, the doctor would have all the time, energy and inclination to answer all the questions the patient wanted to ask.

    In fact, I do believe that the only stupid question is the one you don't ask, and do encourage my patients to allow me to clarify all their doubts.

    However, the reality is that doctors are busy, and need to ensure their time is utilised optimally. Since it's a relationship of unequals ( the doctor has more power than the patient), a pragmatic patient will accept this, and then work towards trying to improve the imbalance of power by becoming better informed and less dependent upon his doctor.

    The trick is to create a win-win, rather than to create a confrontational situation.

  4. Anonymous5:39 AM

    I've read a lot of the comments in this thread. I do not believe that the doctor patient relationship is one of unequals in which the doctor has more power nor is their time more important than the patients. A doctors visit is just that, one to answer questions and ask questions. If you need to be at the doctor because of an illness, etc. they should have enough respect for you as a person to answer your questions. I have personally had on several occasions been sick and the doctor has been completely wrong because they didn't take their precious time to listen. I also have been to a doctor who is just in it for the insurance payment, even for just basic medications they make you come in every single month. That shows a total lack of respect for the patients time, occupation and numerous other things. And most patients when they are sick have way more time to devote to their one patient, themselves, than the doctors do in the 10 minutes they spend with you after making you wait 2 hours. I'm sure they wouldn't appreciate it if the situation were reversed since most are too important to even be asked questions by their patients

  5. Anonymous3:23 AM

    Thats Why I live In Canada haha.

  6. Anonymous4:55 AM

    When your doctor doesn't listen you have been a victim of the
    "The Semmelweis effect"

  7. Anonymous2:46 AM

    My doctor never listens to me about anything. What do I have to do? Die in the office before she does?
    She is always playing the victim and always telling me how important her time is. Really??? Why do you think I'm here?? I need answers because it's not in my head.

    I think I just need to find a really good Doctor who wants to help people. Not bang though as many as you can see in one day.

  8. Anonymous12:41 AM

    I had a terrible visit to the doctors today in the UK, thank god it was on the NHS and I didn't have to pay for it. I have Chronic Fatigue which is a difficult problem to have and I understand that doctors have little time, but I prepare well, I have worked so hard to try to get through this problem myself and have looked at so many different avenues to help myself, I have made progress over the last 2 and a half years but I want my life back and I know there is more that can be done. I try very hard not to be disrespectful to the doctor but I will not be going back to this guy again. Being confronted with a doctor who has no interest in what you have to say and dismisses everything as being a load or rubbish that doesn't warrant his time is totally deflating. It is hard enough being ill without a complete vote of no confidence from the person you look to for help. This doctor actually looked at the BBC website in the doctors office to prove to me that food intolerances do not cause constipation, I am not a doctor but the BBC website, really? I have hung on to my doctor believing that this person knows about what has happened over time and would be the best person to help, I think I was wrong, I will now be making the brave step of changing doctors, hopefully I will have more luck elsewhere.

    1. Anonymous8:59 PM

      I agree with you about the treatment in the UK and the standard of it however I do want to clarify something. Anyone who works and pays National Insurance is paying for their NHS treatment so it is not free!! I get very upset being told I get free treatment when in fact I pay a substantial amount. I could get the top life insurance and private health package for what I pay and have change every month in American terms. For that gold star treatment I had to wait too long for physio and am now left with long term chronic pain (my 6th year now). They won't perform the two operations I need and I have now had to fight for a second opinion. I had to fight for an investigation into a bowel problem which may be connected...All because my GP won't listen.....A word of warning though about changing Doctors.....If you are on any prescritption drugs you need currently and change GP they may review and change your medication. I found out that the DR has prescribing rights over you and there is nothing you can do about it. So if your drug is an expensive one they can just change it without your consent. I am in that situation hence why I don't now change as I had to fight (again) for an epileptic drug that was only registered in 2010 in UK. It makes me less drowsy and I don't have the shuffle so I can work. ....just watch out we have very few rights

  9. Anonymous7:54 PM

    I understand your point that a doctor may be overwhelmed by all his work... but I know mine (I used to work for him, I DO know) schedules 25 patients a day, and then there are the walk-in's. Lobby wait is 2 hours, and then at least another 15 minutes wait in the examining room. He is pleasant and seems to listen, but his answer is always another drug, and I already have damage from two of them, not having been told how probable the side affects are to of which is causing a lot of litigation against the maker. There are few good doctors in western OK, and they aren't taking any new patients.

  10. Anonymous8:45 AM

    My husbands primary doctor doesn't listen. He had a discehotomy and Lancetomy (Partial). In 2012 He injured back July 2013. He also fell hard on ice Dec 2012. I recommended 2times to her to give him a MRI. and she would not. Here it is now almost Sept. 2014 after getting every back injection made including a risotomy. all failed. a pain specialist recommended another MRI. and to no surprise . he is heading for surgery. His surgeon took the time to call my husband at 9pm on a Sunday night and I.form him of the results of the MRI .IF HIS primary doctor listened to us and had the MRI done almost a yr ago. My husband wouldn't have gone through all this excruciating pain for so long. Since the DEA has scared Doctors of pulling there lisc. Doctors do not listen to there patients pain levels. It is inhumane and unethical ..

    1. Anonymous9:04 PM

      I am guessing this is US as here in the UK we are left in pain like that for life. I have prolapsed discs and a deteriorating spine from 6 years ago and they will not do anything. I am given morphne patches and liquid morphine which I am monitored on and moaned about when I take one dose every three days. I am in agony and can barely walk. I have to get a train and a tubeinto London every day to is horrific but there are people worse off than me. But if I needed a sex change then it would be fine...that is ok.


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