• Lori Turner

Loyal Patient Dismissive Doctor

Loyal Patient Dismissive Doctor by Lori Turner

Many people have been loyal to the same doctor for decades. If you have found your Dr. Oz, consider yourself lucky because the majority of the population is still struggling to find one that doesn’t have a hand on the doorknob and the other one holding an unopened chart. Dr. Mehmet Oz, for those that have been living in a small cave without a TV, is everyone’s favorite and popular TV doctor. People relate to his calm demeanor, soft caring voice and his ability to explain complicated diseases like an elementary school teacher reading a novel to the students every afternoon. Dr. Oz is everything a doctor should be: caring, relatable, informative, great listener, and never wants to harm you. After all, if Oprah trusts him, so why on god’s green earth would you have any reason to question his intent with your health and well-being? The thought has never crossed your mind to question Dr. Oz until the day you realize after 20 years of visits, he didn’t answer one of your many questions or listened to any of your new symptoms that are making your life miserable. “Could this medication I’m taking be the cause of my toenails turning black and falling off?” You ask. Like clockwork, the pharmacy calls and your old medication that is causing hives all of sudden is ready for pick up. Never mind you just finished up an appointment with your doctor explaining to them you’d like to get off of this medication. Good old reliable Dr. Oz is acting more like Dr. Dismissive. Could it be your devoted, caring, and thoughtful doctor is getting burned out? Or, is the internet giving us so much access to unlimited information that doctors aren’t interested in listening to a self-diagnosis. When we walk into the exam room, we expect to be treated like family. What will you do if that all changes?

Kim Davidson trusted her OBGYN since 1992. After retiring from her job, she decided to move back to the small town where she grew up. Moving halfway across the country and leaving all of her friends, ex-coworkers, and doctors behind was difficult. Rather than start over and go through the long task of researching and finding a local doctor, she felt it would be in her best health interests to travel back to the doctor that knew her best. This was also a convenient way to visit all of her friends she dearly missed. After a hysterectomy and having some difficulties, she felt her OBGYN had treated her sufficiently well through some difficult side effects. After a surgery like Kim’s, many women suffer from Osteopenia. Osteopenia is the beginning stages of bone loss where they become brittle. In most cases, a doctor will prescribe a medication that will assist in keeping the bones strong and be less prone to fractures. The prescribed drug delays or slows down a more severe condition called Osteoporosis. Every year like clockwork Kim’s doctor ordered a bone density scan to see if her prescribed medication was working. The most recent scan in 2019, unfortunately, concluded she had reached osteoporosis. Ready to hear from her doctor what her new treatment was going to be, she received a call from the nurse telling her the doctor said to proceed “as usual” and keep taking the same medication with a Calcium supplement. Kim thought to herself that just didn’t feel right. The old adage of Albert Einstein came to mind: “The definition of insanity is doing something over and over again and expecting a different result.” Taking the same medication and a Calcium supplement for all those years was obviously not working. Like many patients, she sought out further information on the internet. She was shocked to learn that her medication prescribed by her trusted doctor should not be taken for more than 5 years. Not a good sign since Kim had been taking it for over 16 years! To add insult to injury, the prescription she had been picking up from the pharmacy all these years said the same thing on the label. How could she have missed this? “I felt like all he cared about was keeping me on medication.” She said. She was very disappointed, but also shocked she had become so complacent. “When it comes down to it, we need to be better advocates for ourselves.” said Kim. After careful thought, the long-term relationship with her OBGYN was finished. She is now looking for a new doctor.

Breaking up with your long-term doctor is difficult, especially when you had a connection. Like Kim, it’s disappointing when someone you trust with something precious like your health is just going through the motions. We are not privy to know the quota of patients scheduled each day. There could be 15 patients and you are number 14 with the same aching headache. How many times can a doctor listen to the same complaints without becoming a little dismissive? With so much accessible information, patients frequently self-diagnose and some go as far as convincing themselves they are going to die. Not an easy job to tell someone they are being ridiculous in the throws of panic. Doctors are human beings, and how would you react if someone thought they were going to die from a rash? Seeing the other side may help lower your expectations and add a little bit of compassion for your doctor. Unless you pay for the VIP medical service, you are just patient number 20 with the sniffles.

It might be wise to reflect upon the reasons why you stayed for so long and the qualities you admired in your doctor. Were they compassionate? Did they listen to you? Were you accurately diagnosed and given the appropriate treatment? Do you feel better? Decide why you keep going back and think about your last appointment. If you were disappointed, feeling sick, and you still have unanswered questions, it might be a sign your doctor is bored. There is no excuse to be dismissive, especially with someone that has been with them for so long, but it happens and it is up to you to find something new.

Let’s face it: medicine in the United States is big business. Gone are the days of the local doctor with a single practice. In order to be somewhat profitable, doctors must see and meet a certain quota of patients each day. This is why many of them have turned to group practices as a means to keep costs down and the volume of patients coming in. With such a time crunch and quota, there isn’t much time left to have empathy for patients. Out comes the medical cookbook with the recipe of treatment. Those like Kim should consider themselves extremely lucky to have been with a doctor for 20 years. Unfortunately, those days are gone. It can be like losing a family member when you come to the conclusion it is time to finally leave. As patients, our expectations are high, as they should be. At the end of the day, we have to live in our body and advocate for our health. As in the early Star Trek series, Dr. “Bones” McCoy would say: “I’m a doctor, not a miracle worker.”