The president of the Utah Medical Association isn't surprised by a national survey that reveals that while most people are happy with their doctors, one in five patients isn't.
Neither is Dr. John C. Nelson surprised that Good Housekeeping in its November issue reports that the displeasure isn't because of excessive fees. Usually it's the doctor's professional or personal manner that creates patient dissatisfaction."Patients feel dehumanized. They feel that technology has replaced the bedside manner, that the doctor is more concerned with the instrument, the test, the procedure than the patient," said Nelson, a Salt Lake obstetrician/gynecologist. "The patient today feels fractionated - that he isn't a patient, but a gallstone or a kidney disease or heart attack or a fracture instead of a patient."
Nelson said a recent American Medical Association opinion poll supports the magazine survey, which listed these common complaints about doctors:
-No bedside manner. Good medical care is more than diagnosis and treatment; it's also an attitude on the part of the doctor that creates a sense of trust in the patient. A doctor who is impersonal, condescending or inconsiderate may not instill this trust.
-Vague and evasive. A doctor who doesn't explain procedures or terms or seems to be withholding information can cause a patient to be afraid, confused or unable to follow directions for treatment.
-No diagnosis given. Some conditions can't be diagnosed on the spot; others aren't attributable to one specific cause. But a doctor who performs an incomplete exam, or dismisses your problem as "something in your mind," may leave you with a potentially dangerous condition.
-Discourages getting a second opinion. A doctor who does this probably sees it as a test of his or her abilities. But a second opinion can be useful to support the diagnosis or proposed treatment method, or provide another option not considered earlier.
Nelson believes there are several things physicians must do to heal patient-physician relationships.
"The profession needs to make sure that we are impeccable in terms of the science or technology - that we are doing such and such a test because it needs to be done and because it is going to make a difference in how we care for that individual patient," he said. "We do a pretty good job in that."
But Nelson agrees with AMA President Alan Nelson that doctors can do a much better job practicing the "art of medicine."
"That's the little things like returning telephone calls, holding a patient's hand, emoting with patient, showing concern for the patient overall," John Nelson said.
"If the patient is dissatisfied, he or she needs to make arrangements to talk with the physician in person, expressing his concerns in a non-threatening way. "If the patient doesn't find satisfaction, it's appropriate to seek another physician," Nelson said. "It's always appropriate, especially when surgery is involved, to to seek a second opinion."