Helping Yourself


You Can Help Your Doctor and Yourself.

A recent study published online in the British Medical Journal concludes that “difficult” patients are more likely to be medically misdiagnosed. Physicians had a 42% greater chance of misdiagnosing a difficult patient than a “neutral” one.

Lucy came in because she was in pain. She could no longer tolerate it and the Advil she was taking no longer worked as it had for the past month.  The first thing she said to me was “forgive me but I’m a terrible patient.”

It was obvious to me that Lucy was scared. Perhaps it was a traumatic experience? Perhaps it was how her parents felt and they passed it along to their daughter?  What was apparent to me was that Lucy’s definition of a “terrible patient” and my definition was very different.

Many of us, myself included, have had bad experiences at the dentist.  Mine was because my mother told the dentist that I didn’t need “novocaine”.  So, I had the few fillings I have done without anesthesia!

In fact, fear is the number 1 reason people stay away. So Lucy isn’t unique. In fact, because of that, I just assume that everyone is fearful.   And, I try to overcome that by using special techniques to minimize discomfort. I love hearing “wow, that wasn’t as bad as I expected”, something we at MDH hear a lot.

Being “fearful”, in my dictionary doesn’t make you “difficult”.

And, since being a “good” patient will, according to the research, afford you better care and yield better results, I polled my colleagues (medical and dental) and their staff as to their definition of a “difficult patient”. You’ll note that what happens during treatment isn’t really the factor most people think it is. Plus, people forget that there’s a team behind most doctors and sometimes it’s more important how they perceive you.

So what constitutes being a “difficult” patient? Better yet, are you a “good” patient?


  • Do you smile and are you polite to the staff?

  • Do you come on time for scheduled appointments?

  • Do you give the Doctor and staff your full attention by shutting off your cell phone?

  • Do you fully trust what your doctor says?

  • Do you follow the Doctor’s recommendations or advice?

  • Do you give the office adequate notice before changing appointments?

  • Do you pay your co-pays and/or bills on time?

  • Do you refer your friends, colleagues and family to the practice?

 If you answered YES to all of these questions, congratulations!  You’ll be getting the most from your Doctor and the practice’s staff and you’ll also increase your likelihood of getting the best possible care and results.

When you deal with people, you always get their best when you’re “likeable”. It’s just human nature.

To everyone’s good health and wellness,