doctor giving a senior patient a painful shot

Whenever we talk with people who have seen a doctor recently, they are generally happy to have gotten helpful advice and treatment. But there are usually two or three things about the visit that drove them nuts.

High on the list of annoyances is the waiting. Why is it that good restaurants somehow manage to schedule reservations so that you rarely have to wait more than a few minutes for your table? Keep in mind that they have to account for slow eaters who want to linger over dessert. Despite the extraordinary variability in eating styles, most nice restaurants have your table waiting for you when you arrive. Why can’t a doctor’s office arrange scheduling in such a way that your wait is only a few minutes max?

That is just one example. Here’s another: people also tell us that they find the exam gowns embarrassing at best and ridiculous at worst. Why do they put the ties in back so that your butt is hanging out? What’s wrong with a bathrobe-like gown that ties in front? Companies make them, so why don’t more doctors’ offices use them?

Those are just two possibilities. What are your pet peeves? Please tell us in your comments below.

Joe & Terry Graedon


Consumer Reports has just done a survey to find out what bothers people about their doctor visits. It turns out that the most common problem is also the most serious. Doctors who failed to explain exactly what is wrong or how they plan to treat the patient rank at the top of the list. Check it out here

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  1. jlf

    My doctor seems to use weight as an overly significant indicator of health in my opinion. I am 5’9″, mid 50s, and have maintained a weight of approx. 150 lbs most of my adult life. After my husband died and I stopped eating, and my potassium went low, and my heart raced, and my bp went sky high, and I lost 20 plus pounds rapidly and my friends thought I was starving myself- my doctor says- “well, your weight looks good.” I never felt so bad in my life, but my weight is good.

  2. Kelly
    Hamden, Ct

    What I should have said was I was returning her call to discuss the doc squeezing me in earlier- whatever the case may be- she’s always the sour part of my visit- complaining, patronizing, impatient, eyes rolling. It’s unfortunate because my doctor is great, award winning, even, and I wish this fixture wasn’t the first thing people see when they enter.

  3. Jane

    PS Linda J – A treasured moment with this last week’s appointment was when the doctor told me to look him in the eyes when responding to him. Now, as I said, I believe he is “managing me” – as if I were nuts. I pointed out to him that I’d be happy to look him in the eyes if it weren’t for the significantly increased photosensitivity and probable worsening of my cataract, and if only he’d turn off the overhead lights. He turned them off. I looked him straight in the eyes. And he looked away as he resumed talking.

  4. Jane

    Yes, yes, yes, Linda J from 2010. I will add having the physician change a medication and immediately leaving on vacation. You would think I would demand that this not be done, but I have been so ill, as many are, and so worn out from having to devote hours a day doing research to see whether or not the doctor is doing more harm than good, that I’ve taken to just smiling passively – cause that’s what he cares about – it’s all in the presentation.
    I am so angry with myself for giving in/up. I’ve just taken the old medication instead of the new one beta blocker and beta blocker because the new one might further lower my systolic pressure, which was astoundingly low even while at the physician’s office. I said so. No matter. I’m also fairly well convinced that this new physician, having read all the other physician reports in the system, and the subjective comments, is “managing me.”
    Surely one of the ‘shocking’ notes in the electronic medical tomes must say how I have stringently objected to physicians not looking at skin. As though they’re afraid to do so? And, as you point out, breasts, and the rest of us, need to be seen in order to do a proper evaluation. I wish I had the courage to let my life just take its course without medical interference.

  5. Anayah B.

    Very annoying when drs look at their ipads instead of the patient; During my last visit the dr. made eye contact with me when he came into the exam room but sat down and typed on his ipad for the rest of the 5 minutes he was there…. for this I waited for over half an hour.

  6. pf

    I just posted a rant then I read some of your posts I think what the medical professional is forgetting is we are employing them the patient is the reason for their employment so instead of treating us all like we are stupid and uneducated even if its so I know my body and I research my conditions. Why do they seem to work for the drug reps instead of sticking with tried and true treatments. Also they should be reminded that they work for you for that 5 to 20 min. of that day

  7. Pf

    I am a chronic pain patient after back surgery 20 yrs ago I was able throhgh therapy to return to work unfortunately I have developed a condition severe spinal stenosis with a suggestion of achronids shots and meds not working much so many people in Ohio are dying from heroin and pain killers the DEA is in everyone’s business and while I agree there are Dr feel goods some people just need to function with these meds. Recently my pcp retired I returned to a neurologist and pain clinic I’d left for shorter waiting times all inclusive medical care prompt attention by a doc who listened when to me the neurologist instantly changed meds as well as pain clinic. Ok I can survive some pain but the neurological drugs were changed repeatedly and over prescribed antidepressants new drugs that co pay was more then when my tox screen came back it read as it should have since I was taking Valium for two years and weened myself through Christmas. There are metabolites that Valium turns into before coming out in urine per manufacture Roche I was so bothered that he flagged me stating I was taking three kinds. I said no you know me I always comply he saw me for 4 years before “I believe you but my program wont allow me to give you the controlled meds you’re flagged.”
    I took another urine same day at pain clinic no problem there so I asked if we could check those results no my system won’t recognize it wtf. I am going to see a surgeon to correct condition hopefully but now I might have to postpone my daughter is pregnant with twins and has 15 month old she’ll need me how do I find a Dr who understands the reports my desire to take as few pills as necessary to function what is wrong with being dependent when you have debilitating condition that simple tasks are impossible most days.

  8. Regina

    I have encountered this several times. I got the name of the nurse or Dr. and report them to Medicare, Medicaid and the appropriate boards.
    They did not like it and I did not care.

  9. TS

    Doctors who will not wash their hands! Even in a hospital. And by the way, when you politely ask hospital staff to wash their hands before examining you or giving other treatment, they’ll give you a dirty look or challenge you. This, despite all the evidence about serious infections in hospitals and clinics.

  10. A.X.

    Thankfully, I LOVE my doctor — all the more so after reading the comments here! She’s just absolutely wonderful, and the whole staff is, too. But I worry about what will happen when she retires because I live in a rural area and there just is not much choice of doctors. There’s only a handful around now, and almost all of them are over 60. I will probably end up driving long distances and trying to find a doctor willing to see me by Skype for minor things! You’re lucky to live somewhere where just going to a different doctor is another option.

  11. Kat

    My primary MD considers every complaint – headache to hemorrhoids – requires extensive electronic testing and at least one medication to which I am allergic or resistant. When I refuse both, she still agrees to see me and treat any actual problem (under my direction.)

  12. Mystery Author

    7-12-13 — I had the exact same problem with my doctor. He was nice but the staff were horrible. I left him and my next doctor as well because the PA’s tried to make me take new asthma drugs instead of the old ones that worked fine and were still available. And of course the last thing they want to do help you get generic drugs–I suppose they get a kickback for pushing the new meds. The quality of medical care is atrocious and no one is doing anything about it.

  13. DWD

    PD brings up a good point. I don’t think any of my doctors do online questions before hand, but if they do I am going to print out my answers and take the to the appointment. That way if I get asked the questions again, I can say something like, “Well in your online questions I wrote…….”. Making that response a few times might give them a hint to read the darn thing and use the appointment time to ask additional clarifying questions they may have.
    And don’t get me started on that darn Medicare required “Are you depressed” set of questions asked every year that are insulting. Next year I am either refusing it answering all the questions as if I was depressed to see what will happen. Of course doing the latter may get me thrown in the looney bin. :-)

  14. PD

    I find it frustrating when you fill out all the info. on the computer before your appointment and during your appointment they ask you all the same questions over again that you put on the initial online questionnaire and they never even looked at what you filled out online!!
    Incorrect information has been put on my patient online record a few times. I don’t know where they got some of the info. that was put on my chart. I asked my doctor to remove a condition that I was never seen for from my online record. He was baffled and said he didn’t know where that came from and he would remove it.
    Also, specialists tend to have an arrogant attitude about them and they do not listen or make eye contact and stay at the computer. I feel like they already have a diagnosis of what’s wrong with you before they examine you sometimes – if you do not fit into the particular way they were taught about this diagnosis in school, they get frustrated with you. A particular plastic surgeon and ENT doctor come to mind. They thought they were God. I didn’t go back to them.
    Doctors, treat your patient as a human being, make eye contact and remember, politeness goes a long way with me. Also, remember most patients are a little nervous coming to the doctor and a little TLC from you goes a long way.

  15. HD

    Your copay may be the same, but the insurance companies don’t reimburse a PA or NP as much as the physician, unless they are billing incident to the visit. However, the PA or NP is diagnosing and prescribing for you like the doc does. They are there to help the physician get the patient taken care of in a timely manner. I say if you want to see only the doc, wait til they have an opening but don’t complain about having to wait.

  16. Roger

    It pisses me off when I go to the Dr and have to make another trip a week later at the same price because he didn’t fix the problem the first time. If it was my car the second trip would be free. Sometimes I think Drs purposely under treat you to get that return fee.

  17. elsie

    Was given an unexpected thyroid screening a week after a high intensity CT scan [for a lung issue] that presumably used highly iodinated contrast fluid. TSH was 20 something, read as indicating a seriously underperforming thyroid, although T3 and T4 were in the normal range.
    Was put on 25 micrograms levothyroxine for two weeks, then 50 micrograms for two weeks, then two weeks off followed by another screening. As a result of the second screening, was again put on 50 micrograms for four months, to be followed by another screening.
    In the middle of this four-month period, the doctor’s office made a followup appointment for another CT scan. I was appalled. I cancelled the appointment and faxed the doctor a copy of the article I learned about on the Peoples Pharmacy about the dangers of the sudden administration of highly iodinated fluids used in CT scans for thyroid functioning, 90 to several hundred thousand the normal recommended daily uptake of iodine by the thyroid.
    The article came from the 23 January 2012 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine; People’s Pharmacy interviewed one of the authors, Dr Steven Brunelli, in April 2012 and reported a summary in the 4/30/12 program, with links to interviews with thyroid experts.
    Most doctors are not endocrinologists, but if thyroid medications are among the most prescribed in the US, shouldn’t they be aware of what can cause serious thyroid dysfunctions? And should doctors or office staff not work at cross purposes with a given patient’s current testing regimen?
    PEOPLE’S PHARMACY RESPONSE: You have identified one of the weak links in current medical care. Very often the only one paying attention to “the big picture” is the patient him- or herself.
    That’s why the Society for Participatory Medicine is so interested in making sure patients have access to their own health data–all of it–and the ability to share it with the providers they choose.

  18. weezie

    I am disgusted how Drs. treat ppl. My overweight son- 54 yrs old, needs hip replacement. He called 2 different surgeons and ask receptionist if the Dr. operates on overweight patients. Both told him he had to make an appointment for office visit-only to be told [by both] that he was too big. One charged him 250.00 and the other charged 200.00. to be paid up front before being seen-neither did anything to help and only talked to him a very short time.
    I think they should tell ppl over the phone that they do not operate on lg. ppl.. He has very little income from his job and no insurance. Something should be done about this. I would like to report them but don’t know how to do it.

  19. DWD

    My wife has seen the same male gynecologist for over 30 years. She dreads the day he will retire. From what she says he is gentle and listens and never rushes and apologizes when he gets to uncomfortable parts of the exam. Hopefully he will continue for a while. He changed practices to get away from the lousy hours ob part of the job recently so hopefully he will work longer.
    So there are good male ob/gyns out there. She thinks our female GP is too brusque sometimes. Go figure.

  20. KM

    I will NEVER go to a male gynecologist again! I had a replacement Dr that was obviously very nervous. It made me nervous! He washed his hands & put on gloves & sat there JUST BEFORE he did my exam then combed his hair!!!! WTF!!!Yuck!
    A obesely fat woman replacement Dr gave me so much flak about smoking. I wanted to tell her to look in the mirror before she lectured me about taking care of myself.
    I got really bad allergic reactions that landed me in the emergency room or a hospital stay, when I took my college exams, my brother got married or before I moved to another state. I was refered to a specialist. This Dr asked me the usual questions, but when I mentioned that I got these reactions when I got into stressful situations, he BLATANTLY ROLLED HIS EYES & replied that it wasn’t true!!!! I felt like giving him a swift kick in his you know what (as I was at the right height)! Sometimes the best clues are what the patient is feeling or noticing about herself.

  21. Elise

    You guys are actually making me feel better. I have had most of these experiences myself and thought it was my fault, that I wasn’t doing a good job of communicating, listening, describing symptoms, etc. I’m sorry that it’s happening to you too, but it tells me that the system is messed up, not us. And at this point, after a few instances of misdiagnoses/incomplete care, I am definitely a non-compliant patient. I’ll try DWD’s approach and see if it makes a difference.

  22. DWD

    John H’s post prompted a few brain cells to fire. I am probably what the medical profession calls “a non-compliant patient” because I will not hesitate to challenge an opinion and offer counter arguments.
    Some health professionals do take my patient questions in stride.
    I am having a recurrence of atrial flutter, and Monday I made the statement to a Nurse Practitioner that while I might be considered non-compliant, I was really actively involved in my health. This NP I must admit was quite willing to work with my questions. We went through a stroke risk questionnaire to determine if I needed to be on Coumadin or not, and it determined I did not need it, but she explained that based on my profile I needed to be on a full 325 mg aspirin each day instead of two 82 mg doses. She also convinced me I should be on a bit higher dose than the 375 mg of magnesium I was taking. So now I take 250 mg twice a day.
    I expect a hospital visit in a month or two. I am going to practice the new phrase that John H’s post helped me to formulate.
    “Please don’t think of me as obstinate and non-compliant, but think of me being actively involved with YOU to get the best health outcome available for ME. OK?” And as I say YOU I plan to point to the medical person and as I say ME I will point to myself.

  23. John H.

    My greatest frustration with the medical profession is that they are so focused on themselves – their expertise, their superior positions, their communication among themselves, and their professional status. I get my care at the VA, and the way this arrogance translates is that what I say doesn’t matter at all, especially if I mention that I know anything about my situation, and most especially if I mention that I heard about something on People’s Pharmacy. I get this knowing smile, and then the stock answer that “We recommend you just listen to what trained professionals tell you. We can’t vouch for what you hear anywhere else.”
    The VA system is unique in that it is a mass system for medical care, and as such it is what I refer to as “cattle call.” In serving large numbers of people it has similarities to herding and mass production. I talked to a pharmacist there an hour ago about the BPA Phthalates concern brought up on last week’s show, and was told “I’m sure the FDA wouldn’t allow anything like that in our medicines.”
    She also looked at the ingredients on the medicines I take, and assured me there is no problem with these substances. I take a hard coated potassium, Valsartan (Diovan) and an AREDS vitamin for my eyes. I have allergies, which sometimes are affected by the medicines I take, and sometimes take Fexofenadine for them, which also has a hard coating.
    Another aspect of this arrogance is that my lengthy medical history often gets misread, and doctors and nurses do not like to be corrected. They get into a stance, and will insist something is the case when it isn’t. I tell them to reread the history or ask the doctor in question, and invariably will be told “I don’t have to ask anyone! It says it right here.!” This happened today, and has on numerous other occasions.

  24. Ed M.

    1. Doctors who don’t listen. I know when things aren’t right in my body, and I do a good job of describing what is wrong. Example, I kept describing a digestive sympton that felt like a dull pain, almost hunger pain. Absolutley no burning sensation. Doctor insisted on treaing me for acid reflux.
    2. Doctors who schedule all sort of tests just to cover themselves or make more money for their clinic group. Example, my primary care physician recently insisted on a stress test even though I just was given a clean bill by a cardiologist less than two months previously. Of course the test came back normal.

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