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Why Are Patients So Impatient?

Going to the doctor can be a frustrating experience. Taking time off work, waiting for who knows how long, or just having to put on pants and interact with people can really ruin your day. As future physicians, American University of Antigua (AUA) College of Medicine students should be prepared to deal with patients who may not understand why they waited 50 minutes for a basic physical exam or that their blood test results don’t magically appear in seconds like on House [Editor’s Note: that show really ruined medicine for all of us]. Here are a few ways you can bridge the gap:

Make Patients Feel Occupied

If you’ve ever been to Disney World, waiting in line can seem interminable. However, some rides add activities to complete while waiting in line. It not only makes the time pass faster, but it distracts you from realizing that you haven’t moved forward in 10 minutes. The same philosophy can be applied to the doctor’s office. Don’t have a waiting room filled with worn out Highlights magazines (especially if some kid has already finished all the mazes) or several issues of Time from 1998 that you’re just keeping around because you hate throwing things out. Include things that will peak your patients’ interests like the latest copy of your local newspaper, a TV tuned to something interesting (please not The View), or a Wii Fit game. Or build a fort out of those Time magazines. Seriously, why do you still have those?

Transparency

No, you don’t have tell your patients how much money your clinic made last quarter or where you live (why would they even ask that last one?). Sometimes, all you have to do is tell your patients what the wait time is exactly. A study proved that 80% of patients would be less frustrated if told realistic wait times in advance. Even if you can’t approximate the wait time, a simple, genuine apology would suffice (or cash but, really, you aren’t going to do that). A patient’s time is valuable. All they want to know is that you care about making them wait because–

Empathy is Key

First rule of being a physician: don’t be a jerk. Actually, that can apply to a lot of things but, since this is a medical school, we’ll just go with that. Like all aspects of medicine, you have to be compassionate to create a healthy environment for your patients. When you express empathy to frustrated patients, they will be more likely to listen to you and decrease their stress. Plus, they’ll continue seeing you instead of another physician in their network. You don’t want Robinson stealing all your business, do you? Yeah, he may have a nicer office and a fancier car, but he’s just a two-bit hustler in a white coat. We all know that.

Want to find out which famous doctor you’re the most similar to? Check out this week’s quiz: http://bit.ly/1nZjBNk