What do patients want from their doctors?

With doctors pressed for time, and patients increasingly dissatisfied with their care, how can physicians do it all?

According to a 2006 study, patients want their doctors to be “confident, empathetic, humane, personal, forthright, respectful and thorough.” But in the age of conveyor-belt medicine, and the standard 15-minute office visit, it’s becoming apparent that today’s physician will have trouble fitting that mold.

There are some tips a busy doctor can use, including, “greeting [patients] warmly by name, asking briefly about important events in their lives, maintaining eye contact, focusing on the patient without interruptions, and displaying empathy through words and body language.”

However, the pearl that I found most useful is prioritizing the list of patient issues. As Larry B. Mauksch, a specialist in doctor-patient communication, suggests “first ask about patients’ concerns and then focus on just one or two of their most pressing medical problems, saving others for later visits.”

Indeed, it’s better to focus on a few issues well, rather than superficially covering an entire list.