Doctor Hilda Lawson (not her real name), a close relative of mine, is a gynaecologist who started a private practice several years ago.
Over a cup of tea I asked her about the things patients do that drive her crazy:
1. You are wrong – That's not what Dr Google says!
Doctor Lawson: Ah yes, I do have difficult patients. I get annoyed when a patient asks me why my diagnosis is different from the research they've done on their mobile phones. What some patients forget is that Google is just a search engine without the ability to physically examine them or take their medical history before coming up with a diagnosis. A doctor will give a considered scientific diagnosis. Accept their diagnosis in good faith.
Dear Dr Google’s patient: If you trust Doctor Google so much, save your money and time by not visiting a real doctor. If you do visit a real doctor, keep Doctor Google’s advice to yourself. If you doubt your doctor’s diagnosis you are free to seek a second opinion from another real doctor, not Doctor Google.
2. Doc, you now belong to my family!
Doctor Lawson: Some patients act as if they own their doctor. They think doctors should be at their service 24/7. I had a new patient tell to me she had dumped her previous doctor because he had gone on vacation and left her in the care of another (quite capable) doctor.
Dear possessive patient: Doctors need a break too. They are not robots. They are not superhuman and usually have to care for a large number of patients.
3. Too many ‘doctors’ can cause a lot of trouble
Doctor Lawson: At times trouble does not come from the patient herself, but from her relatives. Once a patient’s mother smuggled drugs that induce labour into the maternity ward and gave them to her daughter. The patient did not need a C-section, but because of the emergency created by the self medication we had to operate. Self medication in such instances can present a lot of problems for the patient and doctors.
Dear impatient grandma: Inducing labour, especially without a doctor’s consent carries many risks for the mother and child. These risks include: the need for a C-section, premature birth, infection, baby’s low heart rate, umbilical cord complications, uterine rapture and bleeding after delivery. Dear grandma, it is best to let the professionals do their job.
4. Mother-in-law knows better
Doctor Lawson: One patient, after I had carefully explained my diagnosis, was not satisfied because she said her mother-in-law, a retired nurse, had given her a different diagnosis. I wondered why she had made an appointment with me if she felt she had an expert at home.
Dear doubting patient: Your mother-in-law did a great service to humanity but is now retired. Practicing doctors are constantly updating their medical knowledge. The procedures your mother-in-law is familiar with are almost certainly obsolete.
5. Good to find you at home, Doc
Doctor Lawson: A doctor friend of mine had the misfortune of having a patient Google his residential home address, and turning up and disturbing the poor man's Sunday lunch by begging for a consultation. Although he grudgingly obliged, the doctor felt his privacy had been violated.
Dear stalking patient: Please do not hunt down your doctor on the internet so that you can turn up at his door uninvited and without an appointment. Doctors, like all other people, do not like it when patients turn up at their private home. You're invading their privacy. If you can’t locate your doctor and it is an emergency, please go to the nearest hospital.
6. Sexist patients
Doctor Lawson: I've received sexist remarks from patients. I did an operation on a woman using dissolvable stitches. I was surprised when the patient returned a few weeks later to tell me that her husband had sent her to confirm that she really did not need those stitches removed, as he did not trust a female gynaecologist to do a good job. They should have visited a male gynae.
Dear sexist husband of patient: Female and male doctors read the same books, are equally intelligent and go through the same training. You will not find any studies that indicate males are better doctors than females. A study published by PubMed showed that 80.8% of patients interviewed said a doctor’s gender does not influence quality of care.
7. Be my social media doctor
Doctor Lawson: Some patients think that I can give them a diagnosis on social media, arguing that they do not want to be charged for consultation. What these patients fail to understand is that, on Whatsapp or other similar platforms, it is difficult to give a proper diagnosis without a physical examination .
Dear social media fan patient: Unless your doctor agrees, please do not consult them via social media. They are not your pal.
8. Phoning at all hours
Doctor Lawson: I used to take my work phone home. Some patients would phone as late as 10pm only to ask what time the surgery will be open the following day. Calling outside working hours is not appreciated!
Dear Late night caller: The doctor needs every minute of her rest. Try calling during working hours.
9. Poor personal hygiene
Doctor Lawson: Doctors and other medical professionals get annoyed when patients turn up for medical examination with dirty socks and smelly breath. It makes sense to wash your feet and change your socks when you are going to see a podiatrist. And when you know you're going to visit the dentist, it’s better to skip the onions and garlic.
Dear smelly socks: Your consultation fee does not cover giving the doctor a clogged nose because of your smelly feet. Pay attention to your personal hygiene!
10. Complaining about your previous doctor
Doctor Lawson: Gossiping about your former doctor will not make you your current doctor’s favourite. Your current doctor will be probably thinking, “Ah, here comes another problem patient.” The doctor will (correctly) assume that you're going to trash her to your the next doctor.
Dear ever complaining patient: If you were not happy with your previous doctor just say, “I want a second opinion.” That's all that's required.
Sources: Mayo Clinic; PubMed