Do We Want a Relationship With Our Doctor?

As is often the case, this weekend I was browsing Twitter. Many of the people and hashtags I follow are healthcare and health IT related. Many of the tweets related to the need to change the healthcare system. You know the usual themes: We pay too much for healthcare. We deserve better quality healthcare. We need to change the current healthcare system to be focused on the patient. Etc etc etc.

This wave of tweets ended with one that said “It’s all about the relationships.” I actually think the tweet had more to do with how a company was run, but in the beautiful world of Twitter you get to mesh ideas from multiple disciplines in the same Twitter stream (assuming you follow a good mix of people). I took the tweet and asked the question, “Do We Want a Relationship With Our Doctor?

If you’d asked me a year ago, I would have said, no! Why would I want a relationship with my doctor? I don’t want any relationship with my doctor, because that means that I’m sick and need him to fix something that’s wrong with me. I hope to never see my doctor. Doctor = Bad. Don’t even get me started with hospitals. If Doctor = Bad then Hospital > Doctor.

I’m personally still battling through a change in mindset. It’s not an easy change. It’s really hard to change culture. We have a hard core culture in America of healthcare being sick care. We all want to be healthy, but none of us want to be sick. Going to the doctor admits that we are sick and we don’t want anything to do with that. If we have an actual relationship with our doctor, then we must be really sick.

From the other perspective, do doctors want relationships with their patients? I’ve met some really jaded doctors who probably don’t, but most of the doctors I’ve met would love an actual, deep relationship with their patients. However, they all are asking the question, “How?” They still have to pay the bills, pay off their debts, etc. I don’t know many doctors who have reconciled these practical needs with the desire to have a relationship with their patients.

The closest I’ve seen is the direct primary care and concierge models. It’s still not clear to me that these options will scale across healthcare. Plus, what’s the solution for specialists? Will ACOs and Value Based Reimbursement get us there. I hear a lot of talk in this regard which scares me. Lots of talk without a clear path to results really scares me in healthcare.

What do you think? Do you want a relationship with your doctor? Do doctors want a relationship with their patients? What’s the path to making this a practical reality? Are you already practicing medicine where you have a deep, meaningful relationship with your patient? We’d love to hear your experience.

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of, a network of leading Healthcare IT resources. The flagship blog, Healthcare IT Today, contains over 13,000 articles with over half of the articles written by John. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 20 million times.

John manages Healthcare IT Central, the leading career Health IT job board. He also organizes the first of its kind conference and community focused on healthcare marketing, Healthcare and IT Marketing Conference, and a healthcare IT conference,, focused on practical healthcare IT innovation. John is an advisor to multiple healthcare IT companies. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can be found on Twitter: @techguy.


  • My primary care is my brother-in-law. Of course I want a ‘relationship’ with my Doctor.

    Jokes aside, when I have one doctor that has known me for years, it is a relationship I want to have. He knows my body, knows how I think, knows my stress levels.

    When we say No to the relationship, we let other issues such as cost, payment, insurance etc. affect our judgement. If I take payment out of the equation for a minute, it might change the perception.

    So, hope new experimental models bring back the continuity and relationship back that is rewarding for patient and provider.

  • Chandresh,
    In the case you describe, I’m sad to say that many would say that they don’t want a relationship with their brother-in-law.

    Payment model is the biggest issue. That’s the key question to me. What new payment models would restore the relationship. Would patients even want that relationship if the payment model was different? I guess the payment model would have to adjust for doctors and patients.

  • I think this piece really reflects what came out of the presentation at HIMSS and the accompanying survey. Moving patient engagement along requires culture change in all areas – patients and providers.

  • Ya Know John, I rarely write in forum posts; but, I just couldn’t resist this one. I am a manager in an EMR/EHR Company as well as a patient in the healthcare system. I see what’s going on both from the industry side and the patient side. Unfortunately, over the past few years my doctors, and the clinics they work in, have become engrossed in technology, paperwork and routines. I feel like just another number to them. They are so busy with busywork, that they don’t take time to know me. They have no idea what is happening to me, health-wise, outside their clinics, and don’t appear to care. I’m just an appointment to them. Before technology and the multitudes of rules/paperwork it seemed more personable. Now the clinics just seem to be a business. I believe the efforts to make healthcare more cost effective has turned them into sterile businesses, and they are losing their humanity. If that’s the direction things must go, then at the least the clinics should learn to be businesses and treat me as a customer, as well as a patient. Ya know what the said thing is? My car and motorcycle dealerships treat me better than clinics. To answer your question… Yes, I would love to have a relationship with my doctor, and the other healthcare professionals trying to help me.

  • Don,
    Thanks for sharing. I think that’s the sentiment of so many. The crazy thing for me is that it’s hated by both patients and doctors. I think most don’t see a way out of their current state though.

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