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Got a Problem with Your Doctor? Speak Up!

Posted Sep 15th, 2009 by Trisha Torrey

Over time, I’ve heard dozens of complaints about doctors from patients.  Here are some examples:

One, a women in her 70s, doesn't like being called by her first name when her doctor insists on being called “Dr. Smith.” She particularly hates it when a 20-something receptionist in her doctor’s office calls out her first name when it’s her turn to be taken to an exam room. 

Another complains that her doctor doesn’t believe what she says about her own body. He’s told her that her problem is all in her head.  She suspects he just says that because he can’t figure out what’s really wrong with her.  And she’s probably right.

I hear dozens more complaints, like “the doctor is such a hurry,” or “I can’t get an appointment for a week,” or “I get on the Internet and find information my doctor didn’t tell me.”

Doctors complain about patients, too.  They ask why we expect them to work miracles despite the fact that we continue to smoke, eat junk food, drink too much, or lie to them about our bad habits. Then they complain that when they give us a prescription or treatment plan, we don’t follow through anyway.

Both doctors and patients have valid complaints.  At the root of the problem is communications.  Doctors are in too big a hurry, and have no incentive to improve their side of the communications equation. If they would take the time, they would explain to us why they can’t lose weight for us, or why it’s important for us to take our medicine the way it’s been prescribed.

So it’s up to us patients to begin making changes in how those communications take place. Since we are the ones who suffer from substandard care, it only makes sense for us to initiate that improvement.

If you aren’t happy with your doctor’s approach, then speak up. Provide feedback. Be polite, be honest, command respect – and raise the issue. Don’t like being called by your first name? Then say so. Feel as if your input is devalued? Then explain that, too. Tired of waiting too long in the waiting room? Then call ahead to see if they are running behind.

The best response will be a change, and an acknowledgment that improvement is necessary. A lesser response suggests you may need to find a different doctor.

Next time you’re tempted to complain, see if you can’t offer a solution instead. Because if we patients don’t instigate these adjustments, they just won’t happen.


About the author

Trisha Torrey is Every Patient's Advocate. She is a newspaper columnist, radio talk show host, national speaker, and the guide to patient empowerment at

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