Patients definitely love their doctors, but it’s not unconditional love. When patient relationships are on, you’re perceived as brainy and empathic with the ability to leap small hospitals in a single bound.

But patients need and want to believe that their doctors and test results are infallible. And when they get the news they don’t want to hear, things can get ugly fast. Granted, this is a subset of patients. The same ones that will write a bad review on Google if they have to wait 15 minutes for an appointment.

The key to healing this trust is a true doctor-patient relationship. And yet, our medical system mitigates against it. Churning through 30-plus patients a day doesn’t leave you much time for a conversation about the context surrounding their condition.

Visiting the doctor these days is like running the gauntlet, starting with medical forms, unavoidable waiting, and testing, poking and prodding by assistants. Any of these can trigger the negative emotions, underlying emotions that some patients have about doctors. They’re greedy, materialistic and don’t really care about patients.

There are no easy solutions, which explains, in part, the physician exodus to concierge medicine. One way to show that you’re not aloof and infallible is to admit mistakes and apologize. This, by the way, is a very effective tool in reducing malpractice suits. But more importantly, it shows that doctors are human just like everyone else.

Handling Apologies and Medical Error to improve patient relationships

Breaking down obstacles to patient relationships is still worth the time for better clinical outcomes, and a healthier practice.