For some time now one of the biggest problems in healthcare has seemed to be indifferent and arrogant physicians who no longer listen to their patients. It seems to be a recurring theme, over and over again we hear horror stories surrounding the treatment of a patient by a doctor. The doctor often does not listen to patients, especially patients with disabilities who know their bodies and their own unique response to particular health events and illnesses.
A number of articles have documented the phenomenon of the arrogant physician, perhaps none as well as the article by Laurie Tarken in the New York Times, December 1, 2008, Arrogant, Abusive and Disruptive – and a Doctor. While not a new article more recent publications have documented what can only be described as a continuing and possibly a worsening trend. Ratings on websites such as RateMDs.com confirm the trend.
An event over the past couple of days that affected a relative confirmed that this can be particularly problematic for patients, especially in encountering a doctor in an emergency room setting.
In the particular circumstance the patient arrived at Doctors Hospital in Dallas on this past Sunday evening due to an asthma attack. The patient, a woman who had struggled with atypical asthma over the last two decades informed the emergency room physician, that she had atypical asthma and described her symtoms including her poor peak-flow meter level, a measure used by asthmatics to measure their ability to move air out of the lungs.
The physician, apparently more experienced in dealing with the more classic presentation of asthma, informed the woman that, “she did not have energy and was not blowing hard because she did not have energy, and insisted it might be due to a heart problem, and ordered a number of tests.
The physician recommended against the courses of action that had been successful in treating the asthma previously and instead initiated treatments designed to diagnose a heart problem (tests that had been run exactly one year earlier with negative results, no heart problem). It was a night where the patient had difficulty breathing and received little relief and disbelief and indifference from the emergency room physician. It was only the following day, when she heard from her primary care physician, who indicated that, “It was not a heart problem just a bad asthma attack.”
Meanwhile, time had been wasted, treatments that could have prrvented the worsening of the condition had not been initiated, and the patient spent the rest of the week in what may have been an unnecessary hospitalization.
It is worth considering that a large measure of the cause for the incredible increases in the cost of medical care may be due to physicians not listening to their patients, and instead performing unnecessary tests possibly looking for more exotic causes of simpler conditions. At least this was the experience that my wife and I had this week.