Are you a victim of patient profiling?

Are you a victim of patient profiling?

Most of us with chronic pain are very familiar with this as we are often judged as

  1. mentally unstable (true: chronic pain affects the neurotransmitters controlling mood),
  2. drug-seeking (true: we seek medication to alleviate our pain),
  3. addicts (false: conclusion based on profiling).

Ever felt misjudged by a doctor? Or treated unfairly by a clinic or hospital? You may be a victim of patient profiling.

Patient profiling is the practice of regarding particular patients as more likely to have certain behaviors or illnesses based on their appearance, race, gender, financial status, or other observable characteristics. Profiling disproportionately impacts patients with chronic pain, mental illness, the uninsured, and patients of color. Like racial profiling by police, patient profiling by physicians is more common than you think.

We rely on doctors to first do no harm–to safeguard our health–but profiling patients often leads to improper medical care, and distrust of physicians and the health care system, with potential lifelong consequences.

For the first time, people share their stories.

10 thoughts on “Are you a victim of patient profiling?

  1. teeks55

    Unfortunately, after 31 years of patient profiling abuse…..I now do actually feel mentally unstable, if for no other reason than being treated as a drug seeker, an addict, a “sneaky” person trying to “pull one over” on the medical establishment. I feel like no matter what I say or how I try to defend my need for opiate medication to control my pain, I will always be looked upon in this way and after enduring this shit for all these years, yes I actually am starting to feel like I am about to lose my mind. Nice job, doctors. Well done.

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  2. teeks55

    P.S. Another reason for feeling like I’m losing my mind is actually being in pain for 31 years. Show me any normal, rational, mentally stable person who has to live every hour of every day for THIRTY ONE YEARS in unrelenting pain….who of them does NOT begin to feel like they are going to flip out after that long?? Is there ANYONE out there who could handle it better than I have??? I think not. I think I’m pretty damn strong considering all I’ve been through in my life. Not just pain but other health issues, several autoimmune diseases, and more. And the fun just keeps on coming as I get older. Now I have osteoarthritis on board, along with recently diagnosed Sjogrens disease. But hey…..god forbid I should be able to take anything to reduce my pain….heavens no!!! That might be “politically incorrect” or some such BS. Gotta keep those pain patients off those horrendous drugs.

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      1. teeks55

        Thank you so much, Joy!! I am indeed strong, and have been strong enough to fight for myself over these many years, but I’m really getting worn down after all this time. Currently I do have a decent NP that I see for regular stuff, along with a very good ob/gyn for my ovarian cysts, and a rheumy NP that I am seeing for my fibro, osteo and Sjogrens. They are okay. I still pick up a little of a certain sort of “vibe” from the rheumy NP regarding my meds but so far she is only prescribing the gabapentin and the plaquenil. My other NP is prescribing the vicodin and xanax, etc. and she doesn’t appear to have any issues with it, so far. Still, it’s always an anxiety-producing time when I have to go for a “visit” because I know I will have to say all the right words and project myself just the right way to get what I need. I hate having to feel that way but they have made it so that you must toe the line and act just “so” in order to be considered suitable to receive the meds. I feel like I have to “perform”…..and it’s scary. They have my entire quality of life in their hands. They have the prescription pad. It’s all up to them what kind of life I have. Whether I can continue to run my small business, or whether I have to quit everything I love and lay in bed the rest of my life. I hate the lack of control I feel when it comes to getting my meds or not. It makes me so mad that if they might be having a bad day and feel so inclined, they could just deny me and that would be it for me. It’s always been a struggle, all of these 31 years….just to be able to get what I need to live my life in a less pain filled way. But I know I’m not alone in this. There are so many who have to fight for what they need to just get through their days with less pain. It’s getting harder to push through all the resistance from doctors and the medical community in general, they are all so worried about addiction and overdosing. I just hope they don’t throw all of us into the same generalization….because most of those of us who take long-term meds for pain are not addicts, we just happen to need this medicine so that we can function. We are not trying to get high or feed some sort of need, other than what I just said….all we want is to be able to function with some sort of quality of life. That’s all.

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  3. joynpain2

    I am scared to even go to the ER because of one incident where I was having a partial seizure, but as soon as they took a look at my medication list, they were just sure it was an overdose even though I absolutely had not overdosed. I haven’t been back to the ER since because I know that as soon as they see my medication list what they’re going to think. My psychologist said that next time I feel like I need to go to the ER to call their office, tell them which hospital I’m going to, and they will call ahead to let them know that I am a chronic pain patient who is not only compliant with my pain management doc, but also with the psychologist and psychiatrist and that I have no drug seeking tendencies. Next time I feel I need to go, I might just take her up on her offer, because I never want to feel the way I felt that one day by the docs and nurses at that ER. Can you imagine how scary it is to not know the year, the day, the president…and for them to say you’ve overdosed on purpose and the only thing you know for sure is that you haven’t? I never want to have to go through that again, but I know someday I might.

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  4. Sonder Twyful

    Doctors need to remember to consider pseudo-addiction when they think a pain patient is asking for too many drugs. It is a well-known and accepted diagnosis, but too many doctors refuse to consider it because they don’t want to be “fooled” by a patient. This is, despite the fact that pseudo-addiction is confirmed by the fact that patients stop asking for more drugs as soon as their pain is treated adequately. No real pain patient ever expects to be pain-free and most tolerate a level much higher than non-pain patients. (I tolerate Level 5 or 6, depending on my requirements for the day.) Please, please, please stop automatically labeling people in pain as addicts. Stop listening to the voices of opioid hysteria. Understand that, in comparison to all pain patients, only a very small percentage actually abuse their drugs. Realize that the doctor’s behavior towards us just MIGHT be the reason we are acting crazy!

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  5. Allison

    I feel like a criminal whenever I enter a doctor’s office. I have been denied help and suffer constantly. Most recently, the discrimination I face has been amplified beyond reason because I am a medical marijuana patient, even here in Colorado. I feel like no one will help me and it’s devastating. Thank you for making the public aware and for making patients like me see that we’re not alone.

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  6. Heather scott

    How can I find out if I am patient profiled and or red flagged and by who …thank you. I get mistreated the second I give people of medical importance….what can I do.

    Thank you

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    Reply
    1. Zyp Czyk Post author

      Sadly, it may be impossible to find out and even then, there’s very little you can do about it – that’s the problem.

      If you don’t have a doctor you can trust enough to ask about this, I don’t know how else you’d ever find out.

      Perhaps you could write down what you plan to say and then look over it the way they would – with intense suspicion. Maybe then you’ll be able to see what it is that’s triggering their attitude.

      If just giving them your name to look up already starts problems, then you know you’ve been red-flagged. But if it’s after taking to them, then it could still be something you’re saying that triggers their suspicions. We have to be very careful of what we say these days!

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