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Health & Exercise Forum

The New Doctor-Patient Relationship - Part 1 of 2

Feb 18, 2013

Nick RussoGuest Author: Nicholas J. Russo, The Commonwealth Medical College MBS Class of 2012

The New Doctor-Patient Relationship

Part I of II


Guest Author: Nicholas J. Russo, is a recent honors graduate of the Masters of Biomedical Sciences Program at The Commonwealth Medical College (TCMC) where he participated in several research and community service projects. He received his Bachelor of Science Degree in Technological Systems Management Engineering and Biology from Stony Brook University in New York and plans to continue his education in medicine.

In NEPA our communities are grounded in trust. On a regular basis, a senior citizen comes to my office for a consultation and the first question they ask me is, “Who is your father, Paul?” This question is followed by, “Was Al your uncle?” “Are you related to Mike?”

While I was not sure of the importance of these questions early in my career, I have come to realize that patients were just trying to make a connection with me. They wanted to know if they could “trust” me. Nick Russo, recent graduate from TCMC’s Masterof Biomedical Sciences Program, presents new research which supports their instincts; patients who trust their healthcare provider have better outcomes…the doctor-patient relationship matters!

Amos was an Amish patient treated for pneumonia with penicillin injections by Dr. Henry.  On the last day of his regimen, Henry told Amos that he did not have a bill prepared and asked him to return another day.  Amos replied by writing a blank check.  Henry refused the blank check as he explained that he could write in any amount he wishes.  Amos replied without hesitation, “I trusted you with my life.  I do not see why I cannot trust you with my money.”

This quote from the book “Patients Are a Virtue,” by Henry S. Wentz demonstrates that trust is an essential component of the doctor-patient relationship.  The sanctity of the Doctor-Patient relationship is the very essence of quality healthcare and is the basis for patient satisfaction and positive outcomes. Recent studies show that patients feel strongly that trust should be the number one factor when it comes to choosing the “Right” physician for you.

Why Trusting Your Physician is Important?

A recent study published in the Internal Journal of Medical Education, has demonstrated that better patient outcomes and compliance to treatment increase when doctors are trusted and more proactive in involving their patients with their own healthcare.  Patients agreed that they trusted their doctors more when extra time was spent explaining the procedure and treatment, the author explained. These patients were more likely to get regular check-ups, medical tests and take their medications properly.  They are also more likely to follow a healthy lifestyle including diet and exercise and control diseases such as blood pressure and diabetes.

Trusting your physician plays a much larger role than one would imagine when making medically informed decisions.  Dr. Janet Townsend, founding Chair of the Department of Family, Community and Rural Health at The Commonwealth Medical College (TCMC) believes that establishing a foundation of trust with a patient and their loved ones is the basis for delivering quality healthcare. She expressed that, “People need to trust you as a doctor and know that you are truly here for them.” Dr. Townsend’s experiences have taught her that there is no simple equation for establishing trust but it is a powerful tool for improving patient outcomes.

Dr. Mark White, an educator and community health researcher at TCMC, takes great pride in his Physician and Society course for first year medical students.  Dr. White believes that trust is an intricate aspect of the doctor-patient relationship; it is the root of passionate patient centered medicine, something he emphasizes in his curriculum.

“Doctor-Patient Relationships Improving”, an MSNBC article, presents a compelling argument that the original “authoritative attitude” of the doctor with their patients has rapidly become a thing of the past.  More and more patients are taking responsibility for their health education and this article suggests that trust is the key underlying factor that allows this open communication which serves to better patient treatment.

Today’s doctor-patient relationship is one where both parties are now more equal than ever and this allows both parties to be rewarded for establishing lasting relationships built on trust.

NEXT MONDAY – Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum in the Scranton Times-Tribune-Part II of II: “The New Doctor-Patient Relationship.”

This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email:

Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice in Scranton, PA and is an associate clinical professor of medicine at The Commonwealth Medical College.