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When doctors themselves become patients: In the event of illness, distrust of colleagues prevails

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When doctors themselves become patients: In the event of illness, distrust of colleagues prevails

Wednesday, November 29, 2023, 9:30 a.m

Munich, November 29, 2023: Medical expertise benefits doctors in various areas of life – even if they become ill themselves. As the new Medscape report shows, 92% of doctors prefer to treat themselves when they are sick. When doctors actually have to go to the doctor, many assume that they will receive priority treatment and will also get an appointment more quickly. However, treatment decisions made by medical colleagues are questioned more critically than by patients who are not medically trained. A majority of survey participants are even of the opinion that doctors in the role of patients are more likely to reject certain therapies than medical laypeople. The current Medscape survey provides further insights into the tension between skepticism and trust in which doctors seem to operate when they become ill.

In the event of illness and in the prevention of illness, doctors prefer to forego the help of their colleagues. An impressive 92% prefer treatment on their own, according to the latest Medscape report “Doctors as Patients”. Only 8% of the doctors surveyed would generally only allow themselves to be treated by other doctors. If external help is needed, 44% of survey participants say they would prefer to turn to doctors they know personally – including friends or acquaintances, colleagues at work or doctors from their studies.

43% of the doctors surveyed assume that as doctors they will generally receive better treatment when they visit a doctor, 45% expect no difference and 12% even expect worse treatment from their colleagues. Doctors clearly see themselves as having an advantage when it comes to getting an appointment quickly (59%). Some doctors are also of the opinion that they not only receive better therapies, but often (14%) or occasionally (48%) also receive unusual therapies. According to survey participants, these special treatments are often more expensive and time-consuming (64%), new medical methods are offered (53%), medications other than those recommended in the guidelines (37%), or even experimental treatments (11%). The exact survey results can be found here.

Where does the preference for taking care of one’s own medical care come from? When looking at the other survey results, mistrust and fears seem to play a decisive role. 47% report that their specialist knowledge would increase fears of illness or inpatient therapy. The majority assume that they ask their colleagues more questions than lay medical professionals (57%). A certain skepticism or critical attitude towards colleagues accompanies many doctors, because treatment decisions are often discussed with the treating doctor or have already been questioned at least once (66%). Every second doctor also stated that they were suspicious as patients in the hospital.

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But not all doctors are characterized by mistrust and fears regarding illnesses or therapies. 25% are of the opinion that their specialist knowledge has no influence on the feeling of anxiety, and a further 29% of the doctors surveyed even attribute their medical expertise to a calming effect. Knowledge about the course of the disease, side effects and risks of medications or therapy options also seems to help doctors in dealing with their own illness and, among other things, ensure greater security when making important decisions.

Patient perspective influences doctors’ empathy

As a doctor, becoming a patient in the event of illness is an unfamiliar situation for many, despite their medical environment. While survey participants disagree about whether they perceive an advantage in the form of better therapies or faster appointments, the role as a patient also has a completely different effect.

“When doctors themselves become ill, you experience the medical world from the other side. What this experience does to them is shown by the remarkable number of 70% who report a changed perspective on their own patients. 64% also say that their own diagnosis or illness has made them more empathetic towards patients. A definitely positive effect for both sides. The experience of being treated as a doctor can shape your behavior and change your behavior – towards more empathy and respect,” says Claudia Gottschling, editor-in-chief of Medscape Germany.

For the current Medscape report “Doctors as Patients,” more than 1,000 doctors who live and work in Germany took part in an online survey from mid-April 2022 to the end of July 2023.

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About Medscape
Medscape is a leading provider of scientific news, health information and practice tools for healthcare professionals. Medscape offers specialists, general practitioners and other professionals comprehensive medical information and training content. Medscape Education (medscape.org) is a leading resource for continuing medical education, consisting of more than 30 specialty-specific offerings with thousands of free CME and CE courses, as well as other continuing education programs for physicians, nurses, and other healthcare professionals. Medscape is a subsidiary of WebMD Health Corp.

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