Good Healthcare Needs Good Patients


It’s a different world we live in from when I grew up. Every day seems to bring reminders of this sad but true statement.

Forty-one years ago I began my career in medicine by entering medical school. I was anxious to take care of people and I looked forward to the challenges ahead. I had tremendous respect for the doctors who treated me as a child and those I worked with as an orderly at our local hospital. I admired the work they did and I envied their respect in the community. I wanted to be like them.

Now, in my thirty-third year of practice, I continue to enjoy taking care of patients but the respect and admiration doctors used to enjoy is largely a thing of the past.

Take a typical day in my practice like I had recently. I had six surgical cases planned for weeks and then the day before surgery one of the patients calls at the last minute to cancel his surgery. No explanation given. No apology for the last minute change of schedule that will affect five other patients and a busy surgery center of about thirty other people.

It gets worse. My third surgical patient of the morning doesn’t show up at the scheduled time. When the surgery center staff calls him he explains he overslept but will be on his way soon. We frantically rearrange the order of patients moving him to the last case while the fourth patient is moved up. The staff has to change all the equipment set-up for him and switch to the equipment needed for the fourth patient – who is now third.

When the third case is finished the tardy patient still has not arrived. Another phone call is made and now he says he isn’t coming at all. He’s decided he can’t afford the out-of-pocket cost – which he has known about for weeks. No apology, of course. No explanation for why he lied when he said he’d overslept.

Finished with surgery, I rush to the office for a full afternoon of patients. Near the end of a very long day (surgery starts at 6:00 AM) two of my scheduled patients (man and wife) fail to show for their appointments. When they do arrive 45 minutes late and are told they will have to reschedule, they get angry and leave. No explanation for their late arrival. No apology.

When I finally decide to close the doors on my medical practice, I’m sure the reason will be days like this. Too many disrespectful patients causing too many aggravations for a surgeon and his staff just trying every day to do their best to provide quality healthcare to everyone.

Good Medical Manners

If you want good healthcare you must also be a good patient. That means treating the doctor and his/her staff with the same respect you expect from them. Arrive on time for your appointment and come prepared to pay your co-pay or deductible if required. Bring the x-rays you were told to bring and the relevant medical records. If you can’t make your next appointment, call and let them know as soon as you can.

Realize that many people are impacted by your decision to cancel planned procedures and don’t cancel unless it is absolutely necessary. When you do cancel, explain why that’s necessary and apologize for the inconvenience you have caused.

When you do receive quality care, let them know of your appreciation. Everyone likes to be affirmed – especially those who have dedicated their lives to providing the best healthcare they can give. You might even give your doctor a hug! That would make up for a long day of aggravation.

With Christmas just a few days away, give your doctor the best gift he or she could ever receive – be a good patient!


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