The Top 10 Peeves Docs Have About Other Docs

Airing out grievances can be productive, especially if it improves communication and service to patients. And the number one on the list is something that bothers both physicians and patients.

Ever since Dave Letterman made the list part of common usage we have all had a compelling attraction to it. And if a touchy, swept-under-the-rug subject is encapsulated within, so much the juicier.

When I posited the question of doc-to-doc annoyances to my Kitchen Cabinet, two interesting responses settled out. The first was silence. Not that people don't have issues — people always have issues. But some doctors just can't bring themselves to talk trash (i.e. "tell the truth") about other doctors.

Happily, and to a useful purpose of improving communication and therefore better service to patients, there is the other group of doctors. Those all too willing to cite chapter and verse of their grievances. So let's weigh in and see if you agree, disagree or have a litany of your own.

10. Complaining but unwilling

Doctors who complain about the way that medical staffs and professional organizations are run, but who won't volunteer and pitch in themselves to make them better. Isn't it better to light one candle than curse the darkness?

9. Advertising superiority

Doctors who advertise on TV, radio and in print, not just about availability and services offered but also implying that they have some exclusive knowledge or better performance than other docs. I suppose that someday you could legitimately do this if we agreed upon some recognized standard of "quality." But we're not there yet, Lord knows.

8. Giving testimony

A corollary of the above is those doctors who lend their name and/or testimony to a commercial product using only their "MD" authority rather than listed evidence from studies. And "clinically proven" does not constitute "proof,” thank you very much. Neither does "my patients tell me that they are satisfied..."

I suppose that we all have our price, it's just that theirs seem so low....

7. Behaving badly in the OR

I have seen, and heard, of doctors who literally throw instruments. I have seen and heard the corrosive berating of the staff, doctors and nurses alike, sometimes for mistakes, sometimes not. It's always unacceptable behavior, unprofessional and cannot possibly help the vulnerable patient.

We should all have zero tolerance for this stuff. When I was a student I once made the mistake of calling a department chairman on a sorry example on his part and was told in no uncertain terms that my future depended upon zipping my lip. But he got the message, too.

6. Never returning phone calls

Not late, after more perceived pressing business is attended to, but never. I heard this from primary care and specialist alike. And what's up with that? It can't possibly help patient care, let alone getting more referrals.

Are you beginning to grind your teeth in recognition?

5. Vague referrals

There are referral specialists who never specify what information they want with a referral. But they are quick to be snide in the hospital cafeteria about the doctors upon whom they depend for patients and their income, who somehow don't send "properly" evaluated and/or documented patients to them.

4. Heavy prescribers

Doctors who trade on how popular they are, verbally and economically, but you know that they are heavy prescribers of psychotropics, analgesics and antibiotics. I suppose that such practice saves a lot of time and stress if you just do not say no and therefore do not have to explain why.

Is it unfair to call this approach a form of pandering and therefore unprofessional?

3. Not sending back info

Some specialists do not send a timely report back to the referring doctor or never send a report at all. Or never even send the patient back! Why would you ever refer to such a paragon the second time? And yet some do, I'm amazed to report. How does this help either doctor or the patient?

2. Waiting on the line

This is my personal number one pet peeve: when doctors have his/her assistant call you and then you have to wait on the line for them! Aren't we all busy, and weren't you the one that called me?

Aside from unprofessional, didn't you have a mother? That's another referral killer in my book. Life is too short to put up with $%&# like that. But do you want to know how I really feel?

1. Illegible writing

This is the most common pet peeve about other doctors, shared by everyone else, medical and non-medical alike incidentally. Comedians joke about it. It's true that we are in a hurry and that we have to write all day. But as they say on the NFL review show, "C'mon man!"

Not taking time to be easily readable costs time and money and adversely affects patient care. I know that one of the arguments for electronic health records is that the problem will be lessened and on that score the conversion can't come too quickly. But in the meantime, can't we — and I definitely do mean me — do a little better?

Well, this is a start, because I have more and I bet that you do too. If so, let me know and we'll see about letting a bit of air freshen up some of our foibles.