What independent physicians need to know about the doctor-patient relationship

A positive, professional relationship with their independent physician is important to patients. In healthcare, that comfort level of being able to trust and confide in their physician is crucial to patients who want to know their physician truly cares about their healthcare outcomes.

Patients want to be able to communicate freely with their independent physician and know they will receive clear, thoughtful answers and directions. What about the physician side of that relationship? What do independent physicians need to know?

Of course, ethics play a significant part in developing and maintaining professional relationships with patients. The physician must ensure that all communication with and about patients is safe and secure, according to HIPAA guidelines and regulations. Knowing that medical data is secure will add to the patient’s comfort level and increase their confidence in the relationship.

The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) offers some very helpful Tips on Building Doctor/Patient Relations, written for the medical resident but that have application for the practicing independent physician as well. AAFP’s tips include:

  • Show empathy to patients. A trusting relationship with the patient is built upon knowing that the independent physician understands and takes into consideration the challenges, emotions, and concerns the patient might have.
  • Minimize distractions and interruptions during a patient visit. Focus on the patient rather than searching for paperwork or responding to calls or messages that may pop up. Patients appreciate the individual attention, particularly as the visit may be stressful for them.
  • Understand the patient’s lifestyle issues. Asking the patients questions – and truly listening to the answers – will give the independent physician insight into the patient as a whole. Understanding other factors that may impact the patient’s health will help in the development of a beneficial relationship.