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The DPR and Communication in Healthcare

Authored by Muqadas Jawad

Today’s healthcare industry is an important topic of debate in recent years given the growing issues with insurance, patient care, and physician education. In an age where the science and the technological advances in medicine are all-consuming, the importance of the humanities of medicine are becoming more and more ignored. While the technicalities are important, the ethics of healthcare are as well. Building a healthy relationship between a doctor and patient is arguably one of the most essential points of healthcare. This is seen through what is known as the doctor-patient relationship (DPR). 

The DPR is a term describing the level of satisfactory interactions between a patient and their physician. A positive DPR is correlated with an increased quality of overall healthcare, which can “empower the patient to cope with their illness” and develop trust in the medical system on both an individual and global scale [1]. During the COVID-19 pandemic, a study showed that patient confidence in physicians and the communication of medical information had a direct relationship to the well-being of the “public’s overall psychological health during COVID-19” [1]. Satisfactory DPR can be achieved through a wide variety of factors. According to a cross-sectional survey conducted on what the most vital factors are, participants noted factors such as communication, medical insurance, and medical knowledge given to the patient by the physician [1]. For example, with communication, consultations that center around the patient, where the physician focuses on the history, satisfaction, and compliance of the patient, improve the quality of treatment and care provided. This is especially true when treating patients with chronic illness, building a long-term relationship between the patient and physician. [2]. 

The problem we are facing now as a society is that due to the rapid changes coming to the healthcare system—where medicine is becoming heavily commercialized—is subject to the effects of consumerism, and where there is unreliable access to healthcare: the overall DPR is at risk of weakening. Due to today’s medical environment, “the interaction between anxious patients and busy doctors can lead to a lack of confidence and other communication gaps” [3]. By extension, this indicates that trust in healthcare is also on a decline. Specifically, the dynamics of the DPR in underrepresented, underserved, and minority communities is at an even greater risk than before. 

According to a study, it was found that overall trust in physicians was just above 60%. The study showed that “males had better concordance, trust, and enablement compared to females,” indicating the possibility of a gender bias in the DPR. However, more research has to be conducted to lead to any definitive conclusions. Moreover, patients with education beyond school level and a “higher socioeconomic status showed better concordance and trust” [3], putting underrepresented or minority communities at a disadvantage. 

Another study surveyed the DPR in relation to race and ethnicity. The survey found that Black patients had “rated their visits as significantly less participatory that whites” [4]. The method in this survey accounted for different factors such as age, gender, previous health issues, and education levels. The study concluded that in order to increase the DPR to a more positive one, “improving cross-cultural communication” between patients and doctors would prove to be a vital aspect as it can lead to greater satisfaction for both the doctor and the patient [4]. 

Another issue is the shortage of medical professionals in communities that have greater Black and Hispanic populations [5]. This creates poor access to necessary healthcare for minority communities. Due to unreliable access, there could be overcrowding in the few medical offices that are available. If minority communities are not able to access healthcare in the first place, the DPR would already start off on a bad foot. 

The DPR is an important concept in healthcare that has been studied for many years. It is an ever-evolving concept that we must work to acknowledge, so that we can combat the issues plaguing our healthcare system. We must start at building foundational relationships with the community, especially in regard to care for historically underserved populations. Improving cross-cultural communication, involving patient-centered consultations and building trust are just some of the ways that we can begin revolutionizing healthcare.

Works Cited

[1] Zhou, Y., Chen, S., Liao, Y., Wu, Q., Ma, Y., Wang, D., Wang, X., Li, M., Wang, Y., Wang, Y., Liu, Y., Liu, T., & Yang, W. F. Z. (2021, May 31). General perception of doctor–patient relationship from patients during the COVID-19 pandemic in China: A cross-sectional study. Frontiers. 

[3] Banerjee, A., & Sanyal, D. (2012, January). Dynamics of doctor-patient relationship: A cross-sectional study on Concordance, trust, and patient enablement. Journal of family & community medicine. 

[4] Lisa Cooper-Patrick, M. (1999, August 11). Race, gender, and partnership in the patient-physician relationship. JAMA. 

[5] Komaromy, M., Grumbach, K., Drake, M., & VranizanD, K. (1996, May 16). The role of black and Hispanic physicians in providing health care for ... The New England Journal of Medicine.

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