How to Have a Great Doctor-Patient Relationship


Ericka McConnell“Doctors have favorites, and theyre lying if they say they dont,” says Katharine OConnell White, MD, MPH, an OB-GYN at Baystate Medical Center, in Springfield, Massachusetts. Here, docs reveal how to score some major points.

Send a note
If your doctor has gone above and beyond for you, send a thank-you card or e-mail; doctors treasure them. “Every doctor I know has a box of notes from patients,” Dr. White says. “On the days doctors are feeling really bad and overwhelmed, they pull out those letters to remind them that they do make a difference.”

Take their advice seriously
Put some real effort into following your doctors suggestions for getting healthier. “A lot of things I ask patients to do are really hard: quitting smoking, exercising, losing weight,” says Sharonne N. Hayes, MD, director of the Womens Heart Clinic at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. “Youve got me at ‘Hello if you walk in 20 pounds lighter and say, ‘Ive been exercising 30 minutes a day, and I quit smoking. If you add, ‘You helped me do it, boy, that lifts me. It gives me that extra encouragement to work harder with the next patient who maybe hasnt heard the message.”

Be friendly
Sure, you need to discuss your symptoms, but doctors really appreciate it when they can relate to patients on a more personal level. Suzanne Trupin, MD, clinical professor of OB-GYN at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, says some of her favorite patients are “my fellow knitters who bring in their current projects and show me what theyre working on. Or my patient who buys books at tag sales and leaves me one to read every time she comes in.”

Spread the word
Love your doc? Refer your friends and family to him or her. “A referral is the best compliment to a doctor,” says Raul J. Seballos, MD, vice chairman of preventive medicine at the Cleveland Clinic. Adds Marta I. Rendon, MD, medical director and founder of the Dermatology and Aesthetic Center in Boca Raton, Florida: “My favorite patients are my ambassadors. When they refer a friend, and that person comes in and says, ‘Oh, my friend so-and-so just loves you, that wins me over.”