A Publication of WTVP

In my office lately, I have had a rash of patients who have what seems to be a periodic cyclical complaint. This common complaint is that many doctor’s offices, after receiving records of exams and medical testing, are reporting these results too hastily and abruptly to their patients. Many of our medical reports, such as X-rays, MRIs and lab work, come back with all the pertinent information—the what, when and why—at the end of the report. This is where the nuts and bolts of the condition lie. If a doctor is hasty in explaining test results and further care, the patient may become irritated and leave the office confused about his or her health and well-being.

A classic example was brought to my attention this evening. A patient requested his X-rays from his doctor and was denied. He was told that he did not own his X-rays, even though he paid for them. The rule of thumb is that the celluloid of the X-ray material is indeed owned by the clinic and a part of the patient’s permanent record; however, the patient owns the image and the doctor is obligated to copy or release the X-rays.

There has been a trend in the past few years of hospitals buying doctor’s practices. Years ago, doctors owned hospitals, not the other way around. After several years of practice, I noticed that, in any kind of business, once the compassion for your profession becomes disconnected, so does the patient. Of course, this does not hold true in all cases, but it is becoming more identifiable.

Learning how to like your patient, and having your patient like you, raises the professional bar. The patient can feel confident and comfortable saying anything to you, which lends you the ability to find something valuable and find a diagnosis that you might have missed by being too hasty. When a practice becomes too business-like it becomes too easy to break the patient/doctor bond of faith, trust, loyalty and honor. After all, we, as physicians, are hired by the patient for our skills, and we work for the patient for all purposes until we elect not to.

Dear doctor: There should be no offense taken if the patient simply wants to know what the exams and testing show. Answer them; give them a copy of the report. With a rushed and hurried office visit, the patient leaves the office more confused and worried. Remember, you are accepting a fee for your time and knowledge. Patients have questions and concerns about their care and it is our responsibility, as physicians, to take our time, answer all questions and put the patient’s mind at ease. We must also take the necessary steps to heal all ailments and treat the whole patient. IBI