Doctor/patient relationships

We find constructive solutions to building a healthy relationship with your doctor.
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Doctor-patientWe asked readers about their own personal experiences and consulted several large external surveys of both doctors and patients to establish the most common gripes, and found that many of these annoyances are avoidable. By actively engaging with your doctor in a constructive way you’ll build a better partnership and get better care. Here's CHOICE's guide to getting the best out of your next doctor's appointment.

See our Health section for helpful tips such as how to choose a good GP.


What annoys patients about doctors?

Poor bedside manner

  • Doctors who don't listen to what their patient is saying, don’t appear interested or act empathetically. Many patients sense a lack of respect, and say they’re made to feel like hypochondriacs.
  • Fear of judgment and sermonising from doctors if a patient comes clean about taking drugs, sexual practices or lifestyle issues. If patients find some doctors’ contempt for alternative medicines and therapies irksome, they’re less likely to mention using them.
  • Personality traits or mannerisms of one or both parties may sometimes prove intractable, so it might be time to try a new doctor.

Waiting ...

WomanSneezing_iStockEspecially if an appointment has been made for a specific time.

Waiting rooms fill up. Patients arrive with a long list of ailments, queries and concerns - without booking a longer appointment; people present with what seem like simple issues that turn out to be more complex; emergency cases need to be fitted in; extra time may be needed for doing tests.

From May 2010, the Medicare payment to doctors will increase for longer appointments, making it more attractive for them to spend a longer time with patients. However, the rise is only a couple of dollars so it might not make a great deal of difference, and if it does, it may eventuate in doctors seeing fewer patients.

Blinkered vision

Patients get frustrated when doctors don’t look beyond the obvious diagnosis and treatments.

“I had horrible dermatitis on my hands and kept being given creams to put on it. It never went away and I suffered for months. I hopped on Google and it suggested giving up milk/lactose. I did and my hands cleared up in less than two weeks. Coincidence? Maybe. But food allergies and intolerances are not uncommon - doctors should know or perhaps suggest these things, rather than just attempt to cure a particular symptom.”


PillsInHand_iStockSome patients would prefer a pill to make all their problems go away, others would prefer constructive lifestyle advice or alternative therapies. If nothing is needed - they’d rather have nothing.

Consumers express concerns that doctors sometimes don’t know enough about medications they’re prescribing, and are overly reliant on information from the drug companies. Many are also disappointed by the lack of information they receive about how to take the medicine and possible side effects.

Mind the gap

Patients resent paying a full consultation fee just for a repeat prescription or referral renewal, which takes a matter of minutes. By contrast, doctors get frustrated when patients happily pay hundreds of dollars for alternative practitioners and therapies with no evidence they work, but complain about having to pay a few dollars for the Medicare gap.



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