I’m a firm believer that patients get the best care when they and their doctors have a mutually respectful relationship with genuine affinity for each other. When you like someone you naturally want the best for them regardless of the social or professional dynamics. As physicians we chose the medical field not only because it interests us but also because we enjoy being able to help others with that knowledge. I experience the patient encounter as so much more enjoyable and I feel even more invested in their success if I also enjoy who they are as individuals. I hope that the patient in return also has a good experience in my office because they are appreciated.
I frequently hear patients’ remarks such as “I don’t care if s(he)’s nice or not, I just want someone who knows what they’re doing”. Although I understand the sentiment, a physician is and always should be more than a technician of medical information and treatments. We are “healers” and should display specific characteristics such as compassion and warmth, in addition to intelligence and competence. Unfortunately, I also sometimes hear that a patient would rather see their physician assistant instead of the doctor. I believe the reason for this is that the physician assistant either has a better personal connection with the patient or has spent more time and effort developing rapport and being the empathetic caregiver.
I personally make an effort to display respect and appreciation for everyone who comes into the office. I believe everyone’s time is important so I try my best to not be late for each appointment. I believe that every person should understand their doctor’s rationale and treatment recommendations so I spend time on educating a patient about their particular health concerns and inform them of treatment options. I appreciate that I am a stranger to most people when they come to my office, but yet they are willing to trust me with their most valuable possession—themselves.
Sometimes, personality differences cause a rift in the physician-patient relationship and although this is the fault of no one, it can affect communication and therefore the quality of medical care. For example, I personally enjoy laughing with my patients. I tend to see the lighter side of a situation and this might not jibe with the person who is looking for a doctor who is more staid. Alternatively, if a physician is more reserved, a patient could mistake that trait as a sign of impersonal distance or distraction.
I realize that people feel obligated to see a particular physician or medical group that is in their insurance plan or they heed the recommendation of their primary care physician or a friend, but everyone has a choice. The best choice is a physician who listens to you, makes you feel important and comfortable and of course demonstrates and communicates competence in the area that you are seeking treatment for.