Are you fearful of being labeled ‘difficult’?

June 12, 2012

I am trying to imagine how my medical doctors perceive me. I tend to ask a lot of questions. I even bring — surprise surprise — information to an appointment and want to discuss it. I find that asking questions and sharing information leads my doctors to use vocabulary with me that I don’t understand and have to ask to have explained. And I am OK with that. But I cannot remember a time when I worried that my doctor, or my childrens’ doctors, or doctors treating my husband would label me ‘difficult’ because I asked lots of questions. But others do have these concerns.

A study published in Health Affairs conducted by Dominick Frosch and collaborators used focus group discussions to learn what barriers limited efforts to share decision-making with their doctors. They learned that participants wanted to be more involved in considering treatment and care options, but concerns that doctors would label them ‘difficult’ kept them from doing so. This suggests to me that doctors may need to make more explicit efforts to invite participation in shared decision-making, thus reducing the perception that participation will make an unfavorable impression.

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One Response to “Are you fearful of being labeled ‘difficult’?”

  1. Susan Eno Collins says:

    Thanks for this blog and sharing the research. The comfort with asking questions and working collaboratively with a doctor and healthcare team certainly stems from the relationship established with the patient. For patients who want to ensure they get the best possible care so that their treatment has the best possible results, you can understand the concern with coming off as a “bother.”

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