The Doctor-Patient Experience

How often do we go to the doctor and feel as though it’s just another business transaction? Maybe they don’t seem so worried about the strange lump on your knee that’s been causing you pain, or maybe when you express a concern, it’s as if they aren’t even listening. When we talk about our doctors, we refer to doctors in terms of their “bedside manner”, or how they act towards us when we are in their care. We recommend a certain physician to our friends because of their calm demeanor, or we warn family to not see a certain practitioner due to his perceived aloofness. It has been found, in fact, that doctors admitted to avoiding emotional discussion with patients “…because it distressed them when they could not handle these issues or they did not have the time to do so adequately” (Ha, Jennifer Fong, and Nancy Longnecker. “Doctor-Patient Communication: A Review.” The Ochsner Journal 10.1 (2010): 38–43. Print.). While this is true, and certainly understandable to an extent, it can significantly affect our perception of our care and, worse yet, if we even decide to get care.

Our perceptions and experiences help to shape our ability to communicate with people effectively. In the role of patient, we expect that our doctors are knowledgeable and empathetic to our concerns. In fact, a study done by the Physicians Foundation found that 79% of people are actually very satisfied with the care they receive from their primary care provider. Of course, doctors and other health workers are only human, and the signals and verbal cues they give us can change how we interact with them. In fact, we know this because it has been found that “Good doctor-patient communication has the potential to help regulate patients’ emotions, facilitate comprehension of medical information, and allow for better identification of patients’ needs, perceptions, and expectations” (Ha, et al., 2010)The big question is, “Where are the shortfalls?” The video below was made by Minnesota Community Measurement to encourage people to assess (and even rate) their doctors in order to promote feedback in an industry we don’t typically think of as needing “critique”. As you watch it, think about the last time you had to see a medical professional. What was the setting? Did he/she exhibit any of the “bad” behaviors? As I watched it, I certainly related to some of the bad experiences!

With all this in mind, it’s important to understand that, overall, doctors will make a clear effort to communicate with patients effectively and treat them with respect. It is ultimately up to us to be sure we are also communicating, despite any “white coat syndrome” we might be feeling. The author of our book, Roxanne Parrott, mentions this as well by saying “Among all the issues that may be in our chart, they [doctors] select the ones we make most relevant…doctors benefit from cues to assist in prompting them to discuss somethings with us as patients” (Parrott, Roxanne, Talking About Health: Why Communication Matters, 64).  Therefore, as much as it is the responsibility of our doctors to use the training they’re given in communicating with patients, there is a responsibility for us to be sure we give just as much thought to what we truly are seeking in our healthcare.

Below are links to the paper and study I looked at for this post.

Physicians Foundation

Doctor-Patient Communication Paper


Kaylin Brodzki


5 thoughts on “The Doctor-Patient Experience

  1. I agree that we should also be held accountable for what we tell our doctors in relation to our symptoms because if we do not tell them, they won’t necessarily know how to treat us. For all the times I hear people complain about their healthcare providers, I am shocked that 79% of people are content! It seems like that number would be lower, but I am glad it is actually that high. Dr. Jones in the video seems like some of the doctors I have had. Thank goodness for Dr. Smith!


  2. I completely agree that is up to the patient to disclose health history and ALL symptoms. If you don’t, how are you supposed to expect the doctor to properly treat you? Yes, they are experts in their fields but many people don’t realize that many diseases and illnesses have many of the same symptoms. So, if you leave out one symptom that seems small to you, it could be the difference between the common cold and a serious disease. It really makes you wonder how many “misdiagnoses” there are due to the patient not the doctor. Also, i truly enjoyed your video. I think it was a great media piece.


  3. I never see doctor’s as aloof. I think doctor’s have just seen every thing possible so many times they are no longer effected by it. It’s true that if doctor’s got close to patients and got emotional they would never be able to do their job properly. Say a doctor gets too attached to a sick patient and that patient dies, the doctor is going to take it personally and maybe let if over take their lives. Being cool calm and collected and sometimes aloof is just part of the job. Of course the doctor is going to tell you everything you need to know and make sure you get care, but they aren’t going to get involved.


  4. The insurance plan from where I work offers us a health coach in addition of medical services. The health coach takes 30 minutes to hour for the exam, the first part is just a chat with a lot of humor. Near the end she takes blood, gets the numbers back in a minute or two and gets all the other numbers she needs we go over them together then we set goals. All the hard facts are recorded, sent to my Doc and then I come back in 3 to 6 months.

    Through this type of medical care I got off all my prescription meds, dropped a few pounds and now feel a lot better than I did before the program developed.

    Our system of medical care focuses a little too much on the science and not on the wellness of the patients.

    Mike Cappel


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