Doctor Disclosure: The Next Step After a Terrible Experience
Seeing a doctor for the first time can be extremely stressful, especially for health veterans that know what to expect and what makes a good doctor good, but have already been through traumatic experiences with health care workers. It’s stressful enough to find Dr. Right in the first place and prepare for your first visit,
but what happens when your first visit ends up being a visit to Dr. VeryWrong?
I hear about experiences like this every day. I get around 5-10 messages a week from people not knowing how to handle a physician that has acted unprofessionally or inappropriately, how to find the right one, or how to report and handle a bad experience.
I’ve had doctors come right out and say it is in my head, that I have a medication addiction, insult my character, ignore me completely, talk on their cell phone for 10 minutes in front of me, discuss (or attempt to) my sexual/gynecological history with the door open for other patients to hear, “playfully” tap my ass while getting off an exam table (which is just downright
inappropriate and sexual harassment—there is nothing playful about doing that to a 14 year old), ask me to undress into a gown while they sit in the room, outright lie in my medical records, made me wait four hours, I could go on and I know most of you could too. For every one exceptional physician, it can often feel like there are three terrible ones.
My most recent experience at the Mayo Clinic compelled me to take action and address in a post this frequently asked question: “What do I do about this doctor?”
Most important thing to take away from this post: if you are uncomfortable at all during the appointment, do not feel obligated to stay and go through any type of exam.
- At large teaching hospitals and places like the Mayo Clinic, there are typically patient services that allow you to report doctors, share complaints, and speak to someone who can help you resolve such issues. Take advantage of this service.
- Never hesitate to write a letter. I wrote one to the CEO of Mayo Clinic, outlining the inappropriate and negligent practices I experienced there. Whether or not you remain anonymous is your choice, but don’t hesitate.
- AMA. Contact the American Medical Association. Here are FAQ about the process of reporting/filing a complaint through the AMA. You can also file a complaint in writing by sending your letter to: American Medical Association, Ethics Group, 515 N. State Street, Chicago, IL, 60610.
- Utilize your resources. The most important (and easiest) thing you can do after having a bad doctor experience is to write about it online. Go to sites like vitals, healthgrades, RateMDs, etc and review the physician. Contact the Better Business Bureau as well. Be detailed, appropriate, and honest. Think about what you want future patients to read when researching this doctor. If the doctor is not already listed on one of those sites, you can add their information and name for the next patient who goes to Google them. Don’t write your review in all caps, make sure it looks like an intelligent, honest person is writing it.
- Contact Your State’s Medical Board if you want to file an official complaint and possibly provoke an investigation into the circumstance. If an investigation finds enough cause, it is possible that they will revoke the physician’s license.
- Contact your insurance company. They need to know what kind of experiences patients are having. You may not get anywhere, but make a complaint anyway: you have nothing to lose here.
It is never an easy thing to stand up against an authority figure, but it is important— perhaps lifesaving— for future patients. Your health is your responsibility and while there are very few things you can control while living with a chronic illness, who you choose to oversee your medical care is in your hands.
If searching for a new doctor, check out these two posts updated today:
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