Would your patient prefer to be considered your friend? Patient preferences in physician relationships

Health Educ Behav. 2015 Apr;42(2):210-9. doi: 10.1177/1090198114547814. Epub 2014 Aug 25.


Objectives: To understand how patient preferences and perceptions of their relationship with their doctor (as patient, friend, partner, client, consumer, or insured) affects confidence in care provided and participation in health care.

Methods: Telephone questionnaire to 2,135 households, representative of the population in Israel.

Results: A total of 508 completed the questionnaire. Most described perceived and desired relationships with their doctor as patient or friend. Individuals were least satisfied with business-type relationships implied by client, consumer, or insured. Preference in relationship type was not associated with participation in health care. Those with a patient, friend, or partner relationship were twice as confident in their care as those with a business-type relationship.

Conclusions: Preferences for the terms patient and friend over business terms highlight the importance of the human connection in the patient-physician relationship. Although one might consider patient a paternalistic term, those with a patient, partner, or friend-type versus a business-type relationship had much greater confidence in their care and were no less likely to be active participants in their own health care.

Keywords: confidence; patient autonomy; patient participation; patient–physician relationship.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Friends*
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Preference*
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Perception
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Sex Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Young Adult