Dealing With Difficult Docs

Family Health, Featured Article, Healthy Living, Power to the Patient
on October 11, 2011

There’s something to be said for the years your doctor put in at med school, and all the stats and facts and charts and anatomy he or she learned. But what do you do when you and your doc don’t see eye to eye? Below are common conflict scenarios and how to handle each one.

RELATED: The Doctor’s In(box)

  • The referral-happy doctor. Back the bus up: Ask why you need a referral and what the alternatives are,says Dr. Steven Z. Kussin, author of Doctor, Your Patient Will See You Now, and founder of a medical advocacy consultancy in Utica, New York ( “But it’s best to go in knowing the answer before you ask the question.”  Try reputable websites, such as the National Library of Medicine ( or the Centers for Disease Control (
  • The dismissive doctor. You know your body best, so persist until you’re satisfied, even if you have to make another appointment, says Suzanne Henry, a policy analyst at Consumers Union Safe Patient Project in Austin, Tex.: “Go armed with facts about the condition and say, ‘I think it’s this because my symptoms are more severe than last time or than you realize.’  If that doesn’t get you anywhere, see someone else.”
  • The prescription-happy doctor.  Let your doctor know from the outset that, when possible, you prefer alternatives like diet or exercise to pills. The doctor may write a prescription anyway, but no one will force pills on you, says Henry: “If you go back, and your way is working, have another conversation with the doctor.” But be sure to ask about red flags that suggest the medication is essential.
  • The alternative-medicine naysayer. Tell your doctor what you want to try, offering the science behind it (that you’ve found on a reputable source, suggests Kussin: “But it’s very important to tell the doctor about any alternative medications you take because of possible drug interactions.”
  • The mammogram nixer.  “Explain that you know there can be false positives, but you’d feel better being screened at 40 than 50 [the new recommended age by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force],” says Kussin. You might mention politely that the American Cancer Society continues to recommend that screenings begin at age 40.