Patients definitely love their doctors, but it’s not unconditional love. When the relationship is on, they perceive you as brainy and empathic with the ability to leap small hospitals in a single bound.
But patients need and want to believe that their doctors and the results from their tests are infallible. And when they get news they don’t want to hear, things can get ugly fast. Granted, this is a subset of patients–The same ones that will write a bad review on Google if they have to wait 15 minutes for an appointment.
The key to healing this trust is a true doctor-patient relationship. And yet, our medical system mitigates against it. Churning through 30-plus patients a day doesn’t leave you much time for conversation about the context surrounding their condition.
Visiting the doctor these days is like running the gauntlet, starting with medical forms, unavoidable waiting, and testing, poking and prodding by assistants. Any of these can trigger any negative underlying emotions that some patients have about doctors.
There are no easy solutions. One way to show that you’re not aloof and infallible is to admit mistakes and apologize; it shows that doctors are human just like everyone else.
Breaking down obstacles to patient relationships is still worth the time for better clinical outcomes, and a healthier practice.