Doctor-patient relationship: 9 tips to improve it

Good care, empathy and respect are the pillars of the doctor-patient relationship. How can this link be improved? We analyze it.

Last update: 02 October, 2022

Since ancient times, the doctor-patient relationship has been structured as the cornerstone of the practice of medicine. This interaction is fundamental to health care and has evolved into what it is today.

Quality medical assistance, accurate diagnosis and timely treatment are health acts that require an intrinsic collaboration between the doctor and the patient. This relationship arises from humanism and ethics.

What is the doctor-patient relationship?

It is one of the multiple modalities of interpersonal relationships exerted by human beings throughout life. Something similar to the mother-son or teacher-student relationship. The doctor-patient relationship is one that allows the patient to satisfy their health needs and the doctor to fulfill one of its most important functions.

This symbiotic interaction was born in ancient times, along with the practice of medicine, and was practiced by shamans and priests. From the bioethical point of view, the doctor-patient relationship entails a shared responsibility whose main axis is to care for and restore health.

This relationship begins even before the first personal contact. In this sense, the patient usually comes to consultation with a previous concept about the doctor who will attend to him, based on his own experiences or those of third parties. This changes in emergency situations, when contact occurs suddenly and unexpectedly.

Characteristics of the doctor-patient relationship

The doctor-patient relationship requires great human rapport and integration of values. Among its main characteristics, the following stand out:

  • Respect.
  • Confidence.
  • Communication.
  • positive interest.
  • professional attitude.
  • Empathy and solidarity.
  • Consistency and concreteness.
Almost all specialties of medicine involve the need for contact with patients. There a fundamental bond for health is generated.

Types of doctor-patient relationship

In general, the doctor-patient relationship is classified taking into account the degree of activity and participation of the doctor in the interaction, as well as that of the patient. In this sense, studies describe the following types:

  • Active-passive relationship: it is one in which the doctor is the one who makes the decisions and assumes responsibility for the treatment. It is applied in situations in which the patient is unable to look after himself, such as an emergency.
  • Guided cooperation: it is based on the guidance of the physician as an expert and the active participation of the patient in decision-making. This type of relationship applies to acute illnesses, such as infections or trauma.
  • Mutual Participation: the doctor attends, supervises and instructs the patient, who will carry out the treatment himself and will be the one who will assess the priority of medical attention. It is the most appropriate form in people with chronic diseases, such as diabetes.


9 tips to improve the doctor-patient relationship

Currently, quality communication with patients within the context of health care is a fundamental pillar. People with some ailment need to be understood and helped. In addition, the level of satisfaction after the consultation determines the reputation of health personnel.

A good doctor-patient relationship allows for greater therapeutic adherence, as well as better results in the evolution of the disease. A person who has a good relationship with their doctor is more likely to follow the directions carefully.

1. Active listening

Health professionals face a large number of patients every day, all with a different personality and multiple ways of expressing their ailments. However, their only need is to be heard and cared for. In this sense, it is essential to actively engage with the patient during the consultation.

In most cases, listening to what the patient says allows information to be obtained to arrive at an accurate diagnosis. Although many people manifest similar symptoms, if what they are trying to express is not given importance, they will not feel cared for.

2. Empathy at all times

A quality doctor-patient relationship is one that allows clearing any doubt that the patient has about his illness or the reason for his consultation. It is crucial to put yourself in the patient’s position and pay attention to everything he says, as well as gestures, postural changes and movements.

3. Calm and cozy atmosphere

A welcoming and pleasant environment will allow the patient to feel safe and confident in being able to talk about their health. Similarly, the doctor must offer a friendly, hospitable and humanistic treatment from the moment the patient enters.

Recognizing the patient, their needs and their feelings allows you to create a better connection. In addition, offering a pleasant environment breaks communication barriers that could hinder the treatment plan.

4. Speak in the patient’s language

It is common for doctors to use technical terms when trying to explain the patient’s health status. Using this language too much is a serious mistake. and could cause confusion.

For this reason, it is recommended to make the language more flexible when addressing patients, using common words to explain the plan in detail. In this way, the doctor-patient relationship will be strengthened.

5. Cordiality and good cheer

Education and cordiality are two key factors in all forms of human relationships. Although work hours may be long, maintaining a good attitude makes a big difference in the doctor-patient relationship.

A smile, a polite greeting and a pleasant treatment will improve communication with patients. From a psychological point of view, cordiality and respect generate trust and a feeling of relief.



6. Respect the schedule

Punctuality is a characteristic that should be highlighted in health professionals. Respecting patients’ time and work schedules speaks of a disciplined and committed person. In case of not being able to arrive on time for an appointment, it is advisable to rely on an assistant to inform people.

7. Stay up to date

Good preparation and continuous medical updating provide great knowledge and expertise to specialist doctors. In this sense, it is advisable to keep up to date on new therapeutic options, disease outbreaks and drugs launched on the market.

Physicians have an obligation to share with colleagues to update themselves and obtain other perspectives in the approach to their patients.

8. Involve technology in health

Today, it is possible to use technology to make the patient actively participate in their health care. For this, there are several applications and platforms that improve doctor-patient communication.

The use of these tools allows people to gain more knowledge about their disease, how to act on different symptoms and when to seek medical attention. In addition, they already represent the future of healthcare interaction.

9. Actively educate the community

The doctor plays a role of great importance in society as an educator. In this sense, specialists must be agents of information about the most common conditions, how to detect them early and the main prevention methods.

A crucial link in health care

The doctor-patient relationship is a fundamental interaction to provide adequate health care. The physician’s role as a source of knowledge must be complemented with the active participation of the patient.

Apply these tips to improve the relationship with patients and achieve a quality approach. Remember that good service and reputation are what define and make the difference in the workplace.

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