The doctor-patient relationship has long since been one of “benevolent paternalism,” where lack of access to information has forced patients to put blind trust in the authority of doctors. Now, in the days of the internet, patients are taking healthcare into their own hands.
One study found that 55% of people acquired information online before they reached out to a doctor, indicating the shift in relationship between the patient and doctor to a partnership that now focuses on two-way communication.
As the partnership evolves, transparency is key. Patients are asking for more from their providers, and in all parts of the patient’s visit, doctors should practice an honest, clear approach. According to a survey, 75% of patients want to be included in treatment decisions, and one in five want to be told upfront about costs. Even if doctors have a preferred option, they should still present all the choices to the patient and come to a shared decision with them. Outside of direct care, patients want access to information like their own medical record without cost or hassle, a physician’s track record of care, or physician conflicts of interest in regards to business relationships. Knowing this, a simple discussion is all it takes to bring the patient up to speed and establish a deeper level of trust.
If a patient isn’t getting information from their provider, they will try to find it online, where not all the medical information will be accurate or pertinent to them. For the most part, patients would prefer not to have to dig online for medical information; 73% of individuals said they preferred advice from their doctor over the internet. If there isn’t time for a full briefing, doctors should direct patients to trusted resources that provide accurate information as a supplement to the appointment.
Developing this rapport with patients not only strengthens the relationship but makes it easier when new problems arise. A new model suggests that transparency is the best response to medical errors. This model is built on a foundation of openness with patients and families and includes:
- Early reporting and analysis of the event at issue
- Full explanations for patients and their families
- Emotional support for health care professionals involved in the mishap
- Apologies and compensation to patients when the hospital is at fault
Studies suggest that transparent accountability is better for everyone involved in the long-run. Along with saving the doctor-patient relationship, the rewards of transparency include improving the quality of care and satisfaction scores. Moving towards transparent practices keeps physicians accountable and patients feeling respected. In fact, one study found patient satisfaction scores increased from 60% to 90% in a three year period because the relationship between the doctor and the patient was strengthened through transparency.
Patient-centered care reinforces the bond between doctor and patient, moving the partnership to a more elevated level of understanding that can only be reached through transparency and communication.