In 1999, as many as 15 percent of patient encounters were rated as difficult by the physicians involved, affording to FPM. Today, many physician practices report that number has grown to 30 percent.
"Patients can be difficult for several reasons. Some patients might have mental health disorders, which could lead to issues with behavior," said Michael Munger, MD president of the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP). "Other patients might be suffering from chronic pain and demand an increase in medication."
Meanwhile, other patients, as noted by Dr. Munger, are feeling stress over financial factors, such as the loss of a job. "With any interaction, it is important to know your patient, and know yourself," echoed John Cullen, MD, president-elect of AAFP.
No matter the reason, experts say the most difficult patients seem to fall into two categories:
1. The angry patient
2. The manipulative patient
These patients can put a strain on the physician/practice — patient relationship. According to Richard Cahill, associate general counsel with The Doctors Company, there should be clear guidelines on how to deal with myriad likely scenarios. Here are some tips on dealing with difficult patients.