By Anne-Marie Botek, AgingCare.com Editor
Does the thought of talking to your doctor give you a racing heart and sweaty palms?
Maybe it’s the pristine white coats, or the years of schooling that we know are crammed into their brains. Whatever this x-factor of intimidation is, research has shown that people find doctors intimidating.
A recently published study has concluded that, despite efforts to encourage shared decision-making between doctors and their patients, a good portion of people continue to view their relationship with their physician as one between a subordinate and a superior, rather than as a partnership.
After conducting a series of focus groups in the San Francisco area, researchers found that, even though most patients said they desired an honest dialogue with their doctor, many didn’t feel comfortable actually having that conversation once they got into the exam room.
When asked about why they were hesitant to talk openly with their doctor, some participants said they felt they needed to conform to the traditional role of the compliant patient, while others felt that their physician was too “authoritarian” to be accessible. Some participants even expressed the fear that being labeled a “difficult” patient might result in a doctor punishing them by doling out substandard care.
These findings are of no surprise to Kevin Jones, M.D., surgeon and researcher at the Huntsman Cancer Institute, who was not involved in the study. “Most patients don’t want to annoy a physician and get abandoned, so they are afraid to ask questions,” he says.
Indeed, when it comes to doctors, Jones says, “A person should be more afraid of not speaking to them. They should be more concerned about the things they are not learning, the things that are not being explained to them.”
As the author of the book, What Doctors Cannot Tell You: Clarity, Confidence and Uncertainty in Medicine, Jones is an expert on the barriers that stand in the way of effective doctor-patient dialogue.