Study: One out of five patient visits 'difficult'

Over the last 30 years, physicians have consistently reported that at least one out of every five or six patient visits was "difficult." A recent study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine only underscores that conclusion.

To conduct the study, researchers surveyed 449 general internists and family practitioners at 118 U.S. clinics, asking them to estimate how often they had contact with patients exhibiting any of eight behaviors considered to be the most difficult. Those behaviors include insisting on unnecessary tests or medications, dishing out verbal abuse or disrespect, having unrealistic expectations for care and persistent complaining despite a physician's having done everything possible to assist that patient.

The researchers found that primary care doctors who said that they dealt with a large number of difficult patient encounters were typically younger and more likely to be female. The most frequently-seen difficult behavior reported was patients insisting on being prescribed an unnecessary drug, a problem cited by more than one-third of responding physicians.

To learn more about the study:
- read this USA Today piece