Waiting Room Tops Patient Complaints

Patients Generally Satisfied With Doctor-Patient Relationship, but Both Sides Have Gripes

Medically Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on January 08, 2007
From the WebMD Archives

Jan. 8, 2007 -- Most patients are satisfied with their doctors, but there are complaints, particularly about time spent in the waiting room.

Meanwhile, doctors have their own peeves about patients, a new survey shows.

The survey of about 39,000 patients and 335 primary care doctors appears in the February edition of Consumer Reports.

Consumer Reports conducted the survey in three phases last year. The "overwhelming majority of patients said they were highly satisfied with their doctors," the magazine reports. But the doctor-patient relationship wasn't completely rosy.

Patients' Gripes, Doctors' Gripes

Patients' top complaint about doctors was time spent in the waiting room. Nearly one in four patients (24%) said they waited 30 minutes or longer.

Other complaints from patents were:

  • Couldn't schedule an appointment within a week: 19%
  • Spent too little time with me: 9%
  • Didn't provide test results promptly: 7%
  • Didn't respond to my phone calls promptly: 6%

Doctors' major annoyance with patients was about not following prescribed treatment. Almost six in 10 doctors (59%) voiced that complaint.

Doctors' other complaints about patients were:

  • Wait too long before making an appointment: 41%
  • Are reluctant to discuss their symptoms: 32%
  • Request unnecessary tests: 31%
  • Request unnecessary prescriptions: 28%

10 Tips for Patients

Heading to the doctor's office? These tips from Consumer Reports might get you better care:

  • Get referrals. Friends, co-workers, or relatives can provide recommendations.
  • Research carefully. When gathering health information, consider the quality of the source.
  • Make an agenda. Before your appointment, set priorities about what you want to discuss with your doctor.
  • Ask about email. If you don't have time to cover everything in your appointment, ask if you can follow up by email.
  • Bring someone with you. A friend or relative can help you get your questions answered and remember what the doctor tells you.
  • Tell it like it is. Be frank, honest; and don't be shy. Bring up any conditions bothering you.
  • Follow your doctor's advice. For example, don't stop taking medications without talking with your doctor.
  • Be persistent. Work with your doctor to find the right treatment.
  • Switch doctors, if necessary. Not happy with your doctor? There are others out there.
  • Keep drug ads in perspective. If you ask your doctor for a drug you saw advertised, understand he may or may not agree its the right drug for you.

Nearly a quarter of doctors said they often get requests from patients for drugs they saw on TV. More than half say they sometimes decline such requests.

However, few patients -- 7% -- said they asked doctors for advertised prescription drugs. (The patients surveyed weren't necessarily treated by doctors who took the survey.)

Because they were subscribers to Consumer Reports, the patients included in the survey may not be typical patients, the magazine notes.