Patient-Doctor Relationship: How it Has Evolved Over the Years


When you suddenly feel ill in the middle of the day or night, what are the chances that you’d call or email your physician? In most cases, people turn to their spouses, partners, or parents when they’re feeling under the weather. But those with a rather good relationship with their doctor will seek medical advice right away.

Patient-Doctor Relationship

People who get along with their doctors are more likely to receive services than those who don’t. According to research conducted by doctors at the Massachusetts General Hospital, doctors who trained to improve how they interacted with their patients had better health after their treatment. In other words, if the patient-doctor relationship improved, the patient’s health also got better. In fact, the improvement on the patient’s part was found equivalent to a heart health boost induced by aspirin.

We may owe this development to technology, especially to effective patient engagement solutions. Indeed, technology has changed how patients regard their own health. They can now submit their healthcare information to their providers in just a few clicks. Clinicians, in turn, can access this information from the palm of their hands.

However, technology also sprung a few drawbacks in patients trying to understand their health. For example, instead of consulting a doctor, people would Google their symptoms first and receive a scare. But we can’t always fault them for doing such. If a person couldn’t approach their doctor immediately, there might be an issue with their relationship.

New Ways to Build a Relationship With a Patient

Before the era of search engines and smartphones, we could say that patients had more trust in doctors since they had no alternative means to address their health issues. But technology didn’t necessarily dwindle that trust. Sure, people can Google their symptoms now and follow a specific website’s advice, but at the end of the day, an actual doctor’s diagnosis is still the one that will give them peace of mind.

Besides, good doctors aren’t deaf to a patient’s struggles in booking appointments. They are aware that a few minutes of their time hinders a good relationship from blooming. But with a little more effort, doctors can use a 30-minute or less appointment to connect with their patients profoundly.

In a paper published by researchers from Stanford, 5 key practices that could repair the gap between doctors and patients were highlighted:

  1. Prepare with intention. Doctors must familiarize themselves with their patients and focus their attention on them before the appointment.
  2. Listen intently and completely. It may be upsetting to hear that a patient has relied on the internet to understand their symptoms, but don’t point this out. Instead, hear what they have to say because they are your most valuable source of information.
  3. Agree on the most crucial matter. Find out what your patients need and care about. Make this your key priority in each appointment.
  4. Connect with your patient’s story. Practice empathy to understand the circumstances of your patients. Commend their efforts and celebrate their victories.
  5. Be sensitive. Tune in with your patients’ emotions and make your office a safe place for them to open up.

Based on these relationship-building approaches, we can gather that empathy is the newest and the best way to build a connection. Without it, patients won’t feel their doctors’ respect and understanding, and doctors won’t earn their trust.

New Ways of Building a Relationship With Your Doctor

Of course, building and improving a relationship is a two-way street. Patients must also exercise efforts to connect with their physicians better. The following are a few ways to do just that:

  1. Prepare for your appointment. Come to the doctor’s office with everything they need, such as your medications, medical history, recent health problems, current symptoms, etc.
  2. List down all your priorities. Let your doctor know the exact problems you want to be addressed ASAP. If your doctor can’t handle them all in a single appointment, talk about booking another one.
  3. Share your chief concern, not just your complaints. For example, if you have back pain, tell your doctor about your other worries, too, such as whether you’ll need surgery, your worries or fears about surgery, or the effect it may have on your job or parenting duties. Doctors are trained to address your concerns, too, so rest assured that they’ll be considered.
  4. Don’t hesitate to ask questions. If you don’t understand how to take the medication prescribed to you, ask before ending your appointment. Research shows that doctors respond more strongly if a patient asks twice.
  5. Ask how to reach your doctor after hours. That’s where texts, instant messaging, or email enter. When you’re assured that you can communicate with your doctor outside the clinic or hospital, you may feel more confident that you will recover faster.

Technology truly reinvented the way we view our health and interact with our doctors, so let’s use it to our advantage. There’s nothing wrong with researching your own health condition. But ultimately, we must trust our doctors more, even with our personal woes that resulted from our illnesses or symptoms.