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Medical Mixups, Rude Office Staff Alter Patient Attitudes

Preventable problems provoke distrust, avoidance or advocacy

THURSDAY, Dec. 8 (HealthDay News) -- Preventable medical problems such as long waiting times, missed diagnoses, rude office staff and an inability to reach a physician can provoke a gamut of patient reactions, ranging from mistrust to avoidance and advocacy, according to study findings published in the November/December issue of Annals of Family Medicine.

Nancy C. Elder, M.D., of the University of Cincinnati in Ohio, and colleagues interviewed 24 primary care patients about their experiences with perceived preventable medical problems. The researchers classified patients' responses as either emotional or behavioral.

The investigators found that "anger was the most common emotional response, followed by mistrust and resignation." Behavioral responses fell into four categories: avoidance, meaning the patient stopped seeing the physician; accommodation, for example, learning to cope with delays; anticipation, including learning to actively communicate; and advocacy, such as obtaining a second opinion.

"Understanding how patients react to their experiences with preventable problems can assist health care at both the physician-patient and system levels," the authors write. "We propose an association of mistrust with the behaviors of avoidance and advocacy, and suggest that further research explore the potential impact these patient behaviors have on the provision of health care."

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