Characteristics That Improve the Doctor-Patient Relationship
The doctor-patient relationship is often cited as integral to positive patient outcomes in any discussion about the healthcare system, and for good reason. How you feel about your doctor, whether he or she takes the time to answer your questions and involve you in treatment goals, and whether you sense empathy and respect during your interactions can make all the difference in your medical care.
And yet, in the world of conventional medicine these days, physicians are burning out with increasing administrative demands and fewer minutes to spend with their patients, making them seem hurried or distracted, which leaves patients—who are already dealing with a system that seems to grow more bureaucratic and expensive by the minute—feeling frustrated and unheard.
A study looking into the traits patients value in their physicians was published in 2006 in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings. Almost 200 patients treated at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona and Minnesota between 2001 and 2002 were interviewed and asked about their best and worst experiences with doctors. Researchers spotted seven common themes in the interviews, which they grouped into seven ideal physician traits: confident, empathetic, humane, personal, forthright, respectful, and thorough. The researchers defined these traits, based off the patients’ feedback regarding their positive physician encounters, as follows:
- Confident: “The doctor’s assured manner engenders trust. The doctor’s confidence gives me confidence.”
- Empathetic: “The doctor tries to understand what I am feeling and experiencing, physically and emotionally, and communicates that understanding to me.”
- Humane: “The doctor is caring, compassionate, and kind.”
- Personal: “The doctor is interested in me more than just as a patient, interacts with me, and remembers me as an individual.”
- Forthright: “The doctor tells me what I need to know in plain language and in a forthright manner.”
- Respectful: “The doctor takes my input seriously and works with me.”
- Thorough: “The doctor is conscientious and persistent.”
When patients discussed their worst physician encounters, the traits that came up were the polar opposite to this list—uncaring, misleading, cold, callous, disrespectful, hurried, and timid. Though this study was published over ten years ago, the takeaways remain extremely relevant today—especially given that the seven-minute appointment structure of insurance-driven doctor’s visits can increase a lot of these undesirable behaviors. Doctors quite simply don’t always have enough time to establish a rapport, address the patient’s symptom complaints, make a correct diagnosis, and make medical recommendations within that timeframe. And because insurance companies dictate what tests can be done and what medications can be prescribed, many patients are now seeking a more comprehensive care experience by turning to doctors who practice outside the realm of the traditional healthcare model.
Doctors who aren’t constrained by traditional insurance reimbursement can spend more time in appointments, order more in-depth testing, and address the myriad lifestyle factors that influence their patients’ health, such as nutrition, gut health, detoxification, sleep, and stress.
Dr. Keith Wharton, who practices bioidentical hormone therapy and integrative medicine at BodyLogicMD of Pittsburgh, shares how his practice differs from others: “I take the time to listen to my patients and really understand their needs and concerns—this is something that they do not get at conventional medical practices. My staff and I get to know my patients on a personal level, which helps me to better form a treatment plan that suits their lifestyle and helps them feel a sense of comfort and build trust within our relationship.” He further adds, “My goal is to make my patients happy and healthy by improving their wellbeing and going the extra mile to assure that they are satisfied with their experience.”
The physicians within the BodyLogicMD network are medical doctors who wanted to give their patients more than conventional medicine has to offer. They practice a health-centered rather than a disease-centered approach to medicine that addresses the unique characteristics of each individual patient, utilizing cutting-edge treatments as well as time-tested lifestyle interventions. Their advanced training enables them to create personalized healthcare plans and establish doctor-patient partnerships that get results. Contact a physician within the BodyLogicMD network today and discover the benefits of personalized, patient-centered care.