A conceptual framework for understanding iatrophobia

Patient Educ Couns. 2019 Nov;102(11):2091-2096. doi: 10.1016/j.pec.2019.06.006. Epub 2019 Jun 10.


Objective: Iatrophobia - fear of doctors, medical care, or the medical care system - is common among patients and can negatively impact their health-seeking behaviors and relationships with health care professionals. Despite this, academic literature on iatrophobia often fails to explore its nuanced causes.

Methods: We establish a conceptual framework of iatrophobia, categorizing sources of fear that may create barriers to accessing medical care, and recommend a research agenda to address this phenomenon and understand its role in medical care.

Results: The framework includes three categories of determinants of iatrophobia: patient fear of illness and the medical exam, patient fear of physician reaction, and patient fear related to barriers to care. These categories represent influences from individual to more system-related factors associated with the physician-patient relationship. Research examining iatrophobia should focus on understanding its prevalence, how patients cope with their fear, discussing iatrophobia in the physician-patient encounter, the sociopolitical contribution to iatrophobia, and how iatrophobia can be reduced.

Conclusions: Iatrophobia can be categorized into three primary domains, but it remains poorly understood.

Practice implications: A more thorough understanding of iatrophobia will help to contextualize its role amid other barriers to care and patient health outcomes.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude to Health
  • Decision Making
  • Fear
  • Humans
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / psychology*
  • Phobic Disorders*
  • Refusal to Participate / psychology*