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Survey finds doctors feel like Rodney Dangerfield

Some 70 percent of the surveyed physicians said that respect from patients had gotten either "a little" or "much" worse since they began practicing medicine.
REUTERS/Fred Prouser
Some 70 percent of the surveyed physicians said that respect from patients had gotten either “a little” or “much” worse since they began practicing medicine.

Ever wonder what your doctor thinks about you?

In its March issue, Consumer Reports magazine details the results of an online survey of 660 primary-care physicians it conducted last September. The survey reveals some expected — and some troubling — findings about the current state of the doctor/patient relationship.

Here are the highlights:

  • What’s “the most important thing a patient can do to obtain better medical care”? Not jumping from doctor to doctor. Some 76 percent of the surveyed physicians believe patients who have a long-term and consistent relationship with a single physician receive better care. (This is not an unsurprising response, given that the docs surveyed were primary-care physicians.)
  • Doctors apparently don’t feel they’re getting the respect they used to enjoy. Some 70 percent of the surveyed physicians said that respect and appreciation from patients had gotten either “a little” or “much” worse since they began practicing medicine. And 61 percent claimed that this lack of respect was hurting patient care.
  • The top complaint doctors had about their patients was that they often didn’t follow their medical advice. For 37 percent of the doctors surveyed, that patient non-compliance affected their ability “a lot” to provide the best care possible. (As the Consumer Reports article about the survey points out, some patients “might fail to comply [with their doctor’s orders] because they’ve experienced serious side effects, don’t fully understand what they’re supposed to do, or found the treatment wasn’t really working.”)
  • The doctors didn’t seem all that sure that their attempts to minimize pain, discomfort and disability were effective. Only 37 percent believed their efforts along this line were “very” effective. (The Consumer Reports article notes that patients tend to give their doctors higher marks for minimizing pain and discomfort — although the marks are lower among patients with chronic ailments.)
  • Doctors want patients to lift some of the load in keeping track of their medical history. Almost 90 percent of the physicians surveyed said it would be helpful if patients themselves kept notes about their treatments, drugs, changes in condition, medical tests and previous doctor visits. And 80 percent said they’d welcome patients bringing a friend or relative with them to their office visits.
  • Physicians really, really don’t like patients citing medical information they’ve read online. “Almost half of the physicians we surveyed said online research helps very little or not at all, and just 8 percent thought it was very helpful,” write the Consumer Reports editors.

The survey also revealed a couple of troubling findings. First, the majority of the doctors surveyed said that drug company salespeople contact them more than 10 times a month, and more than a third said they were contacted more than 20 times a month by a BigPharma rep. (The Consumer Report editors recommend that you bring up your doctor’s relationship with pharmaceutical companies at your next visit.)

The other troubling finding was the high percentage of the surveyed physicians (47 percent) who thought it was “of little value” to give patients information about malpractice claims or professional disciplinary actions.

“It’s true that a malpractice suit can befall any doctor and that disciplinary actions from medical boards don’t necessarily represent the doctor’s overall skill,” write the Consumer Reports editors. “Still, disciplinary actions levied by medical boards can be for serious offenses, such as substance abuse or criminal behavior, that could affect your care.”

You can read the full article about the Consumer Reports survey here.

Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by Paul Scott on 02/11/2011 - 01:35 pm.

    This is kind of a disappointing report. I hope I am wrong but the combination of doctors feeling self pity and being upset about patients either not complying — patients are human — of reading about illness online, sustains the impression that doctors tend to view their jobs as dispensers of pristine knowledge that must not be challenged.

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