Communication is the foundation of the doctor-patient relationship. When doctors refuse to listen to their clients, they have no way of making a correct diagnosis. They will either make a wrong diagnosis or tell the patient to go home because they wrongly believe nothing is wrong. Medical history books are filled with examples of doctors tuning out patients—and patients suffering for it.
Why Doctors Don’t Listen
There are many reasons, including carelessness or lack of experience. A doctor might not be familiar with your medical condition and therefore think that nothing is wrong. Other doctors are struggling with personal issues like divorce, or else they have a substance abuse addiction which impairs their ability to think clearly.
There is also some evidence that doctors are less likely to listen to women, especially black women. We don’t know the precise reason—bias? too many patients? Whatever the reason, you are not imagining things if you believe a doctor is ignoring what you say.
When doctors fail to listen, patients need to say things two or three times. Remember to stand your ground. If a doctor dismisses your pain, say, “I really think this needs to be addressed. I’ve felt pain for five days here.” Or if your doctor waves away your concerns, you can say, “I really want to discuss this more so that I can feel better about the choice I’m making.”
Some doctors fail to listen because they are busy, but they will sit down and give you undivided attention if you persist. Remain calm so that you don’t increase the tension.
However, you can only try so much to get your point across. If you feel like you’re beating your head against a brick wall, then it is time to move on and meet with a different provider.
Get a Second Opinion
You don’t have to accept improper care. Instead, make an appointment with another doctor with whom you can discuss your symptoms or health concerns. Make sure this person is inside your network and accepts your insurance so that you don’t incur unnecessary medical expenses. Be upfront with the doctor that you are seeking a second opinion because your first doctor would not listen to you.
What happens if you feel like you’re getting the brush-off from this doctor? Go to another one. And another one. Meet with as many providers as you need until someone takes your concerns seriously.
Don’t Consent to Medical Care Until You Have Been Heard
When a doctor refuses to listen, the odds of improper diagnosis increase, which means any treatment the doctor recommends could be unnecessary or even dangerous. Never consent to a procedure until you feel confident the doctor has fully listened to you. A doctor should be willing to answer any questions that you have and not wave away concerns. For example, you shouldn’t have surgery unless the doctor explains all material risks.
When to See an Attorney
Communication failures end up harming patients. Delayed treatment worsens a condition that might have improved with prompt treatment. And patients feel needless pain when their concerns remain unaddressed. A medical malpractice attorney in Philadelphia can help any patient injured by medical negligence consider their options for receiving compensation in a lawsuit.