Doctors more likely to misdiagnose patients who are jerks

Going to see the doctor can bring out the worst in people. Being sick and fitting an appointment into an overcrowded schedule can be stressful. So can a long sit in the colorless cube of a waiting room.

But if you’ve ever given a doctor attitude, next time you might want to think twice — or risk being misdiagnosed.

That’s the implication of two new studies published in the journal BMJ Quality & Safety. Separately, the authors demonstrated that clinicians are more likely to make errors of judgment when they’re treating frustrating and difficult patients…

The researchers suspected physicians’ mental resources are so taxed from thinking about how to deal with tricky patients that their ability to process medical information becomes impaired. “If resource depletion affects simpler, everyday problems,” they wrote, “it is not surprising that these highly complex cognitive processes are impaired if a substantial proportion of mental resources is seized by the confrontation with emotional experiences triggered by patients’ troublesome behaviors…”

From the patient perspective, leaving any attitude outside the doctor’s office is probably a good idea, lest you risk being misdiagnosed.

I’ll second that emotion.

RTFA for an outline of the two studies. Actually, the suggestion is useful in many a context. I’d suggest you treat your doctor like a friendly, professional; but, overworked copper. And vice versa.

Politeness counts.

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