Signs that your doctor is unprofessional

Doctors may be critically important to our lives, but that doesn't mean they can treat their patients badly; a doctor tells us how to decide when it is time to find another doctor

doctor explaining diagnosis to her female patient

As a fertility specialist, I often have to provide a shoulder to cry on for my patients. Many of them are very unhappy with their previous doctors, and since I am a doctor too, I listen to their tales of woe, so that I don’t make the same mistakes with my patients.

Here are some of the things patients hate about doctors, and with good reason. If you encounter these repeatedly, maybe it’s time for you to look for another (better!) doctor.

Signs of an unprofessional doctor

  1. Makes you wait endlessly: If your doctor routinely makes you wait and that too, for no rhyme or reason, this reflects either poor time management on the part of the doctor or a disregard for the patient’s time. Unfortunately, many doctors seem to take a kind of perverse pride in making their patients wait. It’s true that patients need to be patient, but not in a doctor’s “waiting” room.
  2. Does not give sufficient explanations: Doctors are used to having their orders being followed, so they just tell their patients what to do, without explaining what or why.
  3. Doesn’t discuss options: Many doctors are authoritarian, and expect blind obedience from their patients. They refuse to consider alternatives, let alone discuss them.
  4. Behaves rudely: Doctors like to project how busy they are and how valuable their time is, so they are often rude and inconsiderate. Their ability to keep patients “in their place” lends them a false sense of importance.
  5. Does not reveal or explain consulting/treatment costs: Most patients are reasonable and expect to pay for medical services—they just need to know how much the cost is, so they can budget for it. But there are doctors who think it is below their dignity to talk about crass matters such as money; others use this as an excuse to extract every last penny they can from their patients.
  6. Does not respect the privacy of the patient: It is the right of every patient to expect undivided attention from their doctor, at least for a few minutes. But they often fail to get even this because there are doctors who talk to two or three patients at once. Such doctors believe in multitasking in order to improve their efficiency and their “patient through-put”.
  7. Never listens to the patient: Many doctors feel they “know-it-all” and do not even bother to listen to the patient’s perspective or feelings. They may dismiss what the patient says or cut short the patient when they are speaking. Patients feel cheated when they cannot unburden themselves.
  8. When the chemistry is not right: I received an email from a patient, who said, “I drive my current doctor crazy. I question everything and I just can’t follow orders until I actually agree to follow them.” That’s a good idea! Many doctors prefer passive patients who agree to do what they are told to. Unfortunately, what they don’t realise is that these silent passive patients are often the ones who don’t “follow orders”. Indeed, they are the ones who are non-compliant. While it is true that it does take longer to talk to active, questioning patients, they are the ones who are much more co-operative and compliant, once they agree with the treatment plan, because they have played an active part in its formulation.

Many senior doctors continue with these bad habits, partly because they can get away with this behaviour, and partly because they don’t know any better. Unless patients learn to speak up for their rights, the doctor-patient relationship will always be lopsided against the patient.

Get off your knees

I can understand why poor,  patients put up with such behaviour. Beggars can’t be choosers, and they are so grateful for any care they receive at government hospitals, that they don’t expect any better. But why do affording patients, who pay large fees to their doctors in posh hospitals, tolerate such rudeness? Unless patients learn to get off their knees, doctors will remain comfortably ensconced on their pedestals.

Patients are unnecessarily scared of changing doctors. They feel that their doctor will be “hurt”; or that “he knows my case” and therefore they should stick to him. Sometimes, a fresh re-assessment makes a world of a difference. I often see patients who have received poor quality medical care. When I ask them why their doctor did a particular procedure (which was unnecessary), they look nonplussed, and the standard answer is: ”Because the doctor told me to.” When I enquire why they didn’t check to see if the doctor’s advise was correct, their stock reply is: “But I had faith in my doctor .”

Don’t trust blindly

Yes, it is important to have faith in your doctor, and to trust him. But you need to be careful in whom you repose your faith. If you find a good doctor, your faith will be amply rewarded. Unfortunately, patients are often not always good at discerning good doctors from and bad ones, and their blind faith can prove to be expensive. This is why it’s a good idea to do your homework before going to your doctor and also to verify everything he tells you independently. Doing your “due diligence” will pay off handsomely.

You have a lot more at stake than just money or time when you go through any medical treatment. It’s important for you to choose a doctor you feel comfortable with, so you have peace of mind that you did your best, no matter what the final outcome. If you aren’t happy with your present doctor, it’s time to look for alternatives. Everyone is allowed to make a mistake once, and you may have been unlucky with your initial selection. However, there’s no excuse for making the same mistake repeatedly. Learn from your mistakes and act now, rather than suffering in silence, and regretting later.

This article has been adapted from the original which appears on the author’s website.

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