Friday, June 16, 2017

Patient's Attitudes in the Medical Office

Reading my daily articles regarding medicine, I came across this title, “3 ways to help doctors and staff deal with racist patients” and I chuckled to myself. We don’t deal with only racist and bigoted patients, we deal with arrogant and angry patients, we encounter threats, both personal and legal, as well as being called many derogatory names.

The 3 ways cited in the article are, 1. Establish a Committee, 2. End the Silence, and 3. Take a stand against cultural and religious discrimination. These ideas are a beginning to dealing with a problem that is rarely recognized. In my career in medicine, I have dealt with many angry and rude patients, but several encounters stand out.

I once encountered a patient who insulted every minority staff member in his first few minutes in the office. When being led to his room by an Asian Medical Assistant, he sniffed and said loudly, “I smell Chinese”, then when he passed a female physician of Indian Descent, he insulted her heritage and then he loudly proclaimed “No Jews”, in front of a male Jewish physician. When I was contacted to come to the exam area, I faced a barrage of upset staff requesting that I take care of the patient. I composed myself and went into the room, introduced myself and asked the patient if he had any problems with his visit to our office. He looked at me, smiled and said “No, why did I ask?” Using all my Social Work and Human Resource skills, I explained to the patient that sometimes we may say something that we think is fine but can be hurtful to others, that we had to be careful how we used our words. I further explained that in our office we do not allow or condone any type of discrimination based on sex, race, or religion. I asked him if he could abide by these guidelines, he stated he could. I thanked him and told him the doctor would be in soon. I went back to my office, not 2 minutes later, the Medical Assistant ran into my office, the patient had left in a huff.  While leaving the office, he ran into a female, black Medical Assistant. He told her that our office had too many non-whites, but she was okay, he liked blacks.

I have wondered for many years now, what makes a normal person become a crazed maniac when entering a doctor’s office. Why is every issue escalated to anger? As more guidelines (HIPAA, HITECH, EO’s) are forced upon medicine and we enact those guidelines, patients only become angrier.
What do you mean you can’t talk to me about my spouse/child/friend? (HIPAA)

Why do you care if I have gun in my house? (EO)

What if I don’t want my information on a portal on the internet? (HITECH)

Why do I owe SO MUCH money didn’t my insurance pay? (ACA) 

It will take how long for me to see MY doctor? (Fewer physicians, more patients)
Each day we deal with these angry comments and more. I have had times felt physically threatened by a patient and have requested that I not have any more contact with that patient. While these are few and far between, it is an issue in medicine. It is nice to see an article addressing the issue, if only in a narrow area, but if we can build a conversation in medicine, then maybe we can begin to address these issues.
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