In February 2007’s issue of Consumer Reports, the Consumer Reports National Research Center reports on a survey of 39,090 patients and 335 primary-care physicians. The major findings from the research were:

  • The vast majority of patients said they were highly satisfied with their doctors.
  • Nearly one-third (1/3rd) of doctors failed to discuss side effects of prescription medications.
  • Two-thirds (2/3rds) of physicians didn’t discuss cost of medications or tests with their patients.
  • 78% of the doctors surveyed had been asked to prescribe medications the patient saw via pharmaceutical advertising.
  • People with unresponsive doctors did better when they took active steps to bridge the communications gap (such as taking a friend or family member along, or by asking the doctor more direct questions).

The Consumer Reports research also suggested the following tips to help improve your care with your doctor:

Before the Appointment

  • Get a referral — Avoid randomly picking a doctor’s name from the phone book or health plan list.
  • Research your condition carefully — But do so on established, trusted websites (not the latest startup’s website or a website with little healthcare background).
  • Prepare an agenda — You get between 10 to 20 minutes for a primary care physician appointment, so make the most of it by coming prepared with your list of concerns, questions and issues.

During the Appointment

  • Don’t go alone — Taking a friend/family member along can help you feel more empowered, get questions answered, and feel supported in your choices.
  • Speak frankly — Save the embarrassment for something that doesn’t involve your health, and don’t rely on your doc to ask all the questions. Some docs are better at this than others, but it’s up to you to assert yourself since it is your care on the line.
  • Ignore drug ads — Prescription medications should always be prescribed based upon a medical need and a doctor’s judgment. While you can ask about a drug you saw on the TV or online, don’t be disappointed if your doc declines to prescribe it.

After the Appointment

  • Follow your doctor’s advice — Yes, it’s a pain. Yes, you don’t want to do everything you agreed to in the doctor’s office. But your outcome will be much better if you make a concerted effort to follow your doctor’s advice.
  • Be persistent — If you have a chronic condition, or a mental health concern, sometimes these issues take the longest to treat, so it helps to be persistent in seeking and maintaining treatment.
  • Change doctors if you have to — Don’t settle for poor care, hard-to-reach doctors, rushed appointments, or poor communication from a doc. Trade in for a different one if you need to.

What Bugs Patients About Doctors

  1. 24% – Kept me waiting for 30 minutes or longer
  2. 19% – Could not schedule an appointment within a week
  3. 09% – Spent too little time with me
  4. 07% – Didn’t get me test results promptly
  5. 06% – Didn’t respond to my phone calls promptly

What Bugs Doctors About Patients

  1. 59% – Don’t follow their prescribed treatment
  2. 41% – Wait too long before making an appointment
  3. 32% – Are reluctant to discuss their symptoms
  4. 31% – Request unnecessary tests
  5. 28% – Request unnecessary prescriptions