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What bugs Americans most about their doctors

We asked 1,000 people about their biggest medical gripes

Consumer Reports magazine: June 2013

In a nationally representative survey, we asked 1,000 Americans about things that might bug them during a doctor visit. Unclear or incomplete explanations of a problem bothered them much more than most other complaints.

Respondents rated 16 complaints on a 1-to-10 scale, with 1 meaning  “you are not bothered at all” and 10 meaning  “you are bothered tremendously.” Our gripe-o-meter shows the results.

Long waits in exam or waiting rooms were more distressing than inconvenient office hours or filling out medical forms. Significantly less bothersome than the other things was a doctor’s discouragement of alternative treatments such as acupuncture, herbal remedies, and chiropractic.

Women were much more bothered than men about private discussions taking place within earshot of other patients, rushed office visits, too-early release of hospital patients, and inconvenient office hours. They were also more likely than men to be bugged if a doctor took notes on an electronic device instead of interacting face to face.

Americans 65 and older were more peeved by having to fill out long forms than were those under 65. Americans younger than 35 said they’d be less bothered than did older folks by doctors who are too quick to order tests and procedures. Westerners were much more bothered by the discouragement of alternative medicine and by doctors who rushed through visits than were all other respondents.

Bottom line. We’ve reported over many years that openness, respect, and trust are critical to a successful doctor-patient relationship. Because many office visits last just 10 to 20 minutes, it’s important to prepare a list of concerns and questions. Prioritize, and raise your big three or four concerns first. Explain symptoms clearly, and gently interrupt if you feel you’re not being heard. Prepared patients have reported an improved relationship with their doctor. Taking a family member or friend along can be very helpful. See more advice from our medical expert Orly Avitzur, M.D., on how to get your doctor to listen and when it's time to fire your doctor.

When choosing a new doctor, people who found their physicians through someone they trusted—a friend, family member, or another doctor—had the most favorable experiences, our surveys have shown. For more information, go to our Doctors & Hospitals page.

   

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