Most healthcare workers have had diagnosis disagreements with patients

Connor IbbetsonData Journalist
July 09, 2020, 1:02 PM UTC

Another 84% say they’ve encountered patients who’ve researched their symptoms before seeing a medical professional  

Recent YouGov research found that 86% of Britons trust their family doctor to tell the truth, but that doesn’t mean they always agree with them.

Our latest survey of healthcare professionals reveals that most have had patients argue with them over diagnoses, prescriptions and medical advice. Most have also had patients scour the internet for a solution before seeking professional medical advice.

Overall, 86% of healthcare workers who perform diagnoses say they have had disagreements with their patients in the past about their judgement – only 10% say they’ve never had a patient question them on a diagnosis.

A plurality (48%) say that disagreements with patients is a rare occurrence, but another 32% say it happens more frequently. For 6% it’s found to be a common occurrence.

When we asked the equivalent question to the general public about disagreeing with a medical professional, 51% said they had disagreed with a medical professional over a diagnosis in the past – with 18% saying it had happened occasionally, and 3% often.

It’s not just the diagnosis that problem patients are willing to argue over, however; another 78% of healthcare workers who write prescriptions for medicine and treatments say they have had patients argue over these as well. 

Arguments about prescriptions are slightly less frequent, with 26% of healthcare professional who provide prescriptions saying they sometimes have disagreements about them, and another 6% saying it happens often.

The numbers are similar when it comes to medical advice, with 45% of healthcare professionals saying they sometimes have a disagreement with a patient on the matter.

Do Brits know better than their doctor?

One possible explanation for Brits arguing with their doctors is that now more than ever, they can easily research symptoms online. And, indeed, most healthcare professionals say that more often than not patients have done their own research before seeing them.

Over half of healthcare professionals (58%) say they often encounter patients who have sought out their own diagnosis online before seeing them or another medical professional – and one in six (16%) say it happens all the time.

When we asked the equivalent question to the general public, 19% of adults said they always do research on their condition before seeing a medical professional, and another 19% said they do so often, but not all the time – only one in ten (10%) adults said they never look up their symptoms before heading to a professional.

Women are also more likely to do research before seeing a medical professional, with nearly half (46%) doing so often, compared to only 32% of men.

Approaching a quarter (23%) of women say they research their condition every time they need to visit a professional, compared to 16% of men who do the same.

The most popular form of research is, unsurprisingly, the internet, which 90% of adults who said they have researched their symptoms have used. This is followed by asking the advice of friends and family (28%), and books and medical journals (9%).

See full for results healthcare workers here

See general population results here