Dr. Guy Mayeda’s interview with Fox News and was included in the following abridged article by Elizabeth Renter, who is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website.
It’s easy to focus on the basics when evaluating your doctor: Did he go to a good medical school? Does she have a good reputation with colleagues and patients? Is he in your insurance plan’s network? These questions are an important part of your calculations.
But there’s another equally important — and somewhat intangible — factor to consider: Will the two of you be able to build a relationship that works to keep you healthy?
Recent research shows a good doctor-patient relationship can improve health outcomes, so it’s worth investing the effort to determine how your connection with your doctor stacks up.
This process can take time, possibly several appointments. Whether you’re seeing a new doctor or evaluating one you’ve had for a while, weigh your exchanges against the following four elements, which are the keys to any healthy doctor-patient relationship.
- Communication: A Two-Way Street
Communication with your doctor begins the moment she enters the exam room. Appropriate diagnosis and treatment depend on your ability to share your symptoms and concerns, along with her ability to listen. If she doesn’t listen, you may feel like she’s not interested in what you have to say and therefore say less. As a result, your doctor could end up making uninformed decisions.Likewise, your ability to understand and follow treatment recommendations depends on your doctor’s translation of complex medical topics into understandable, actionable advice. On both sides, if communication skills are lacking, the relationship suffers.
- Physician Empathy
Empathy is the ability to share someone’s perspective, to mentally stand in their shoes and see the world from their point of view. Simply listening isn’t enough; a doctor who fully understands where a patient is coming from is better able to build trust and provide advice and treatments that align with the patient’s needs. Physician empathy is such a valuable part of the doctor-patient bond that some hospitals are training doctors for it.
Even though only 23% of Americans have confidence in the health care system, more than two-thirds (69%) trust doctors’ honesty and integrity, according to a 2014 paper in the New England Journal of Medicine . Trusting that your doctor will deliver ethical guidance best suited to your particular health needs is another must-have in a healthy relationship.“As part of that trust, physicians need to present patients and family members with an honest assessment of the risks and realistic success rates with any recommended treatment or therapy,” says Dr. Guy Mayeda, cardiologist at Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles.
But your doctor must trust you, too, to follow her guidance, take your prescribed medications and follow up as needed.
- Professional Boundaries
If you and your doctor need good communication, empathy and trust, should your doctor be your friend? Not so fast, experts say. Your doctor must walk a fine line between trusted confidant and friend, always keeping within professional boundaries.