A patient-physician relationship is often one of the most critical connections in a person’s lifetime. Each year, nationwide studies and surveys examine what patients are seeking from both their physicians and their health care experience.
Among patient-provider surveys, a recent study revealed that access and service are the top two reported needs among patients of all generations. The same study also suggests patients are now increasingly making health care decisions with a “retail-oriented” mindset, often considering factors like convenience, cost and location.
In the broader health care landscape, one of the largest consumer U.S. health care surveys similarly reported that a one-size-fits-all approach to meeting and exceeding patient health care needs simply isn’t effective. From millennials to baby boomers, each generation has its own complexities when it comes to health care preferences and expectations.
Making health care decisions and selecting the right provider can be overwhelming, so we met with a group of physicians from Elite Medical Group to get their take on the top five considerations when selecting a doctor.
If it is important to you, it should be important to your physician. Whether it is 2 a.m. or 2 p.m. on a Sunday, same day appointments when it matters most shouldn’t be a luxury. According to a recent study, 71 percent of emergency room visits are unnecessary.
“It’s not doctor-centric, it’s patient-centric,” said associate medical director, Dr. David Ashley.
If you’re up in the middle of the night with a sick child or struggling to balance caring for your family and an elderly parent at the same time, a doctor should be accessible via a wide variety of communication platforms, especially for questions or conditions that seem urgent.
In most cases, a seasoned generalist has seen every kind of patient – from those who are clear on what they need from their visit, to those who aren’t.
“Some patients come in with a list of 15 things and say, ‘this is exactly what I want out of this encounter and other times they say, ‘I'm just tired and I don't know what to do,’” said medical director, Dr. Claudia Zegans. “Some say, ‘I'm only here because my mother told me to come.’”
For Zegans, that’s exactly where an experienced physician will adapt to guide the encounter.
“You have the skill to be perceptive to know how the patient wants to approach the visit, as well as the experience to guide them and get them what they want for a better outcome,” Zegans said. “Sometimes it means telling them what to do, other times it means directly answering their questions.”
An experienced doctor has seen many different types of patients and situations.
“There's nothing that could come my way that would raise an eyebrow or throw me off,” Zegans said.
A seasoned physician should be well trained, current and well informed, to be able to immediately relate to a patient of any age. A relatable doctor creates a welcoming environment for all patients, making a visit feel less formal, inviting a sense of a partnership instead.
“You don't want someone judging you because of your race or gender or political thoughts,” Zegans said.
Comfort and Trust
Comfort and trust are perhaps the most essential pieces of the patient-physician relationship, often taking time to develop over a period of time.
For associate medical director Dr. Gail Fancher, working with a small group of physicians helps to establish a foundation of trust among patients. With a small treatment team, it is more likely a patient will interact with the same physician, increasing opportunities to feel understood and whole in the medical encounter.
Building trust and comfort can often come simply from hearing the advice of an experienced doctor. This input helps to decrease stress and resolve problems.
Beyond the Diagnosis
A physician who is focused on you and free from distractions should be the standard during a visit, but selecting a doctor who takes time for a truly meaningful interaction should also be the expectation.
Business Insider recently reported the average time spent with a doctor is less than 15 minutes. Feeling rushed during a visit or left with a sense that you missed an opportunity for follow up questions are common pain points. Only you as the patient can interpret the medical advice you have received though. It is the physician’s job to provide the patient with adequate access to educational materials and doctor guidance.
From a physician’s perspective, a person is never defined by a medical condition and it is essential that a doctor has and takes the time, to explore the patient’s wider world and answer questions.