The Doctor-Patient Relationship
Updated: Mar 31, 2019
The doctor-patient relationship is a critical element to modern healthcare. It creates an environment where trust allows for open dialogue without the fear of judgement and retaliation. Trust is paramount in obtaining an accurate medical history. When patients feel uncomfortable, judged, or vulnerable they are less likely to share all the details that may be necessary to arrive at the proper diagnoses and treatment plans. In this manner it has direct and indirect effects on patient outcomes, quality of life and satisfaction. In the United States, there are mounting fears that the corporate healthcare of today is weakening the doctor-patient relationship. Physicians are hard pressed to deliver healthcare faster and more efficiently. In many cases, what insurance will cover appears to dictate the practice of medicine including which labs can be run, which doctors or specialists can be seen, and which treatments can be provided. Visit length, bedside manner, face to face communication, and informed consent appear to be falling to new lows. This new way of delivering healthcare leaves patients feeling unimportant and unheard. One tool that serves to build trust in the doctor-patient relationship is informed consent. This is the practice of delivering all relevant information and options, discussing possible risks and benefits of each, and allowing the patient the opportunity to make educated decisions regarding their healthcare. Inherent in informed consent is the ability to accept or reject any given medical procedure for any reason.
This practice is important because it highlights the reality that health is always in the hands of the patient and they are free to exercise their will, whether it ultimately benefits their health or not. For some patients it could mean making the choice between a procedure to prolong life or not. For others it may be the choice between treatment A which is covered by insurance or treatment B which is not, but possibly more effective. Wherever there is risk, there is choice. Providers who selectively share information out of fear it may persuade the patient to do something that they perceive as not in the patient’s best interests have broken the sacred trust of the doctor-patient relationship. Further education can and should be employed when a patient’s decision may not be in their best interest, but ultimately the choice remains theirs to make. At the Peterson Clinic we view the doctor-patient relationship as an equal partnership. We believe in true informed consent. We take the time to listen; to value your thoughts and contributions as we form a plan for health together. Through education and empowerment our patients take an active part in their healing experience. When working together in a proper doctor-patient relationship, each patient can expect healing and an enhanced ability to maintain that health. We are proud to be part of your team.
Dr Anton Alder, ND