The hashtag #PatientsAreNotFaking has been trending on Twitter over the past few days. What exactly are patients “not faking?” A video of the nurse dancing not believing patients stirred up a lot of trauma for many in the disabled community and BIPOC communities came out. It caused a major breakdown on the internet when that video was posted by @Imani_Barbarin who included the #PatientsAreNotFaking hashtag. And so the new hashtag was born, which quickly accumulated lots of short stories of delayed medical diagnoses because patients were not taken seriously enough and soon began swimming the whole twitter progressively. Some of the tweets are:
@Ashtronova twitted: the first time i told a doctor that i sleep 14 hrs a day, it was never looked into and i was told ”i wish i could sleep that much”. if the doctor took me more serious i could’ve been diagnosed with my sleep disorder and started treatment 4 years earlier #PatientsAreNotFaking
@tori_saylo’ s story of being told to “calm down”: I was told multiple times over the course of several weeks in & out of the emergency room that I was having panic attacks & needed to calm down/relax. Turns out, it’s extremely hard to relax when you’re having your first attack from Multiple Sclerosis (MS).#PatientsAreNotFaking.
Movie and television star Selma Blair suffered “not being taken seriously by doctors” for years before finally being diagnosed with MS. And Blair is a well-known celebrity.
@hattiegladwell who suffered a lot tweeted: I was having rectal bleeding, severe weight loss & chronic constipation for a year. Told it was periods & an eating disorder (I was recovered). Sent home from A&E three times, told to eat bananas. Bowel perforated, large intestine removed & a stoma bag. #PatientsAreNotFaking
These were just a few of the heart-wrenching tales from the hashtag. After such stories came out, it showed the world the harsh reality of the healthcare system. Many studies have shown that a large number of doctors and other healthcare professionals aren’t doing great jobs at listening to people. For example, a study covered by Forbes showed how doctors on average interrupt patients after only 11 seconds. That’s barely enough time to listen to a patient’s complaints thoughtfully. Of course, some doctors and health professionals are too quick to judge patients, relying on stereotypes and preconceived notions.
Stereotypes, sexism, racism, ageism, body type-ism, and other isms may prevent people, particularly women, racial and ethnic minorities, people of different sexual orientations, and those of other types of body (e.g., those with obesity) from being taken seriously. Many patients across the country have encountered doctors and other healthcare professionals who have either ignored or dismissed their symptoms, showing signs of severe underlying medical conditions in many cases.
The larger problem may not be individual doctors and other health professionals but rather the healthcare systems around them. Therefore, healthcare systems need to change in order to allow and encourage such doctors and other healthcare professionals to hear patients precisely, to really get to know the situations of patients, not to make snap judgments, and to work closely together with patients to solve problems. If this is not the case, then the healthcare system is what really fakes stuff.