How Do You Manage The “challenging” African Patient?

Hamza Asumah, MD

There is no question that if you own a hospital, you will come across all of these types of patients – the angry patient, the “google” patient and the anxious patient – who will put your company and patience to the test. It goes without saying that you cannot ignore these clients. They are a part of the business and all of the learning that comes with it.

If you want to grow your business, you must grasp how to handle these patients on a consistent and regular basis. Statistics show that the number of diagnostic errors reported with these patients is higher, making the prescriber’s and management’s job more challenging.

I have encountered and dealt with a variety of these difficult patients in my over nine years of private practice. I must admit that I got it wrong most of the time, especially with the irate patient, since I always succumbed to my natural instincts. These, on the other hand, were really informative to me. I’m hoping you will as well.


The most common source of aggravation for patients or clients is when a service is mediocre and, in some cases, completely misdirected, having nothing to do with your organization. These irritated patients are frequently rude or disrespectful to you and your personnel. In the presence of such a patient, your initial instinct is to become protective. Furious patients, on the other hand, do not want to be informed that they are wrong or that their behavior is unacceptable. They would rather be heard.

Photo by doctorgabby

According to hospital news, when confronted with an irate patient, take a minute to compose yourself and, if necessary, leave the room to gather your thoughts. Recognize the patient’s complaints once you’ve regained your composure. Apologize without admitting blame and inquire how the patient feels the situation should be fixed.


Photo by bodyonept

Google seldom provides an accurate health reading, but that doesn’t stop many people from searching the internet for answers to their medical problems. According to a PatientPop study, 75% of Americans have looked online for a doctor, a dentist, or medical treatment; 61% do so occasionally or frequently.

Photo by etactics

Patients who self-diagnose may cause frustration. They can undermine your authority by pressuring you to undergo unneeded tests or treatment regimens that you know will be futile. Patients who self-diagnose, like angry patients, don’t appreciate being informed they’re wrong.

Photo by appsychology

A better approach would be to first attentively listen to what they learned. After thoroughly assessing the client, present your diagnosis and treatment choices. Without being condescending, explain the patient that you do not believe a certain test or surgery is necessary. You might also try directing patients who are self-diagnosing to trustworthy web sites that can back you up.


Anxious patients may be evident — they may cry or shake, for example. Others express their nervousness in subtler ways, such as avoidance of eye contact or fidgeting. Anxious individuals may be too distraught to articulate their health concerns or completely digest critical information about their treatment that you provide. Giving your patients the choice to communicate with you via telehealth may even make them feel more comfortable expressing their problems with you.

Photo by rdhmag

Your role here will be to constantly assure this patient and help them relax so they can assimilate any directives you give them.  In fact, 67 percent of patients want a doctor who is a good listener.

In these three challenges, you will meet isolated incidences of these types of patients as well as a combination of these challenges. Your ability to effectively deal with the problems of these clients is what guarantees you repeat customers. In my experience, these are usually very grateful and loyal patients if you manage to work with them through the challenge. I must admit that the reality of practicing these is extremely hard, but they become easier with practice. What has been your experience?

I will love to know your thoughts on this. Please leave a comment below.

2 responses to “How Do You Manage The “challenging” African Patient?”

    • Jamie, I completely agree with you. It is very easy to ignore the individual and company-wide challenges such patients bring. Understanding how to relate properly with these patients is a priceless skill to have as a business owner and a physician


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: