There are certain characteristics which can help to identify a potentially difficult patient.

Findings which may be clues to a difficult patient include:

(1) history of care by many providers

(2) dissatisfaction with the care given by multiple previous providers

(3) demanding, pushy, irritable and/or angry

(4) rudeness to staff

(5) history of legal actions

(6) presence of multiple chronic problems that have been resistant to therapy

(7) possess an extraordinary level of clinical knowledge

(8) blaming

(9) manipulative personality

(10) ongoing disagreement with care

(11) selective forgetfulness

(12) incongruity between social function and complaints


The presence of one or more of these findings may not guarantee that the patient will be difficult, but it should alert the physician to be prepared for problems in advance. However, the physician should take care not to become biased against the patient.

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