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On the Clock? Doctors Rush Patients During Appointments

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Patients Rushed In and Out of Doctor’s Office Receive Poor Medical Care

It isn’t uncommon for doctors to schedule their patients in 15 minute intervals, and while this means more patients are seen per day, it also can mean poor quality of medical care.  Take, for example, Joan Eisenstodt, who went to see an ear, eye and nose specialist and was rushed out in 3 minutes or less.  She says that the doctor told her that her nose was inflamed after giving it a cursory glance and that she should follow up with the nurse for a prescription.  Unfortunately, Joan had a severe sinus infection that nearly went overlooked.  However, when she complained about the doctor’s choice of medication, he abruptly cut her off.

Built-In Tension Between Patients and Doctors Exists in Short Appointment Time

Some experts say that doctors feel more pressure to see a large number of patients within a short period of time because of more insured Americans.  Whatever the reason, rushed doctors and anticipating patients who want answers for their medical complaints and problems equals tension in the doctor’s office.  Many patients schedule appointments months in advance, take time off of work, and expect that they will receive more than a few minutes of their doctor’s time to talk about their medical concerns.  Furthermore, patients typically have more than one medical concern when they visit their doctor, but doctors commonly want to get to the “main complaint”.  This creates a serious disjuncture between patients and doctors–one that is causing burnt out doctors and disgruntled patients.

Listening to Patients May Be the Most Important Aspect of “Doctoring”

Although doctors may feel pressure to see the maximum number of patients, experts like Dr. Alex Lickerman at the University of Chicago, say that taking the time to listen to patients is actually one of the most important aspects of “doctoring”.  Studies also show that listening is vital, and that it’s not so much about the actual time spent on patients, it’s the feeling that they’ve been heard and not dismissed.  Hopefully doctors will take this advice in stride, especially newer doctors entering the field and dealing with new distractions like electronic medical records that make it even more difficult to listen.