The Patient-Physician Relationship

It was one of the big healthcare stories in today’s New York Times.  It started out by saying:

      “A growing chorus of discontent suggests that the once-revered doctor-patient relationship is on the rocks.  The relationship is the cornerstone of the medical system — nobody can be helped if doctors and patients aren’t getting along. But increasingly, research and anecdotal reports suggest that many patients don’t trust doctors.”

Right there in the opening sentence, written between the lines, is the crux of the problem.  The author like so many of us put the “doctor” first in the “doctor-patient relationship”.  It’s a subtle but important distinction.  It is essential that the public and those of us in the medical profession learn to appreciate this distinction.  If there were no patients there would be no need for physicians.  Ergo it is the patient that comes first in this relationship.  The patient’s healthcare needs are what created the physician’s healthcare solutions.  Like I said it is a subtle distinction to reverse the order but it says so much about how we view the world of healthcare services.

While I am on this topic you may have noticed a couple of other related observations.  One is that I specifically did not refer to the “patient-doctor relationship”.  In the United States the conventional use of “doctor‘  refers to a medical doctor.  This is not always the case and “physician” or “medical doctor” is the more appropriate term.  Another point is that recently the “patient-physician relationship” is quickly being replaced by the “patient-provider relationship”.  I’ve discussed some of the reasons for this in a previous blog.  Suffice it to say I believe it is because the “cornerstone of the medical system” is changing.  I suspect this is really the reason the trust is breaking down.  The real question is if patients don’t trust doctors who will they come to trust?

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