AMA Journal of Ethics®

Illuminating the art of medicine

Journal of Ethics Header

AMA Journal of Ethics®

Illuminating the art of medicine

Virtual Mentor. January 2005, Volume 7, Number 1.

Module 1

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Case 1.2: Fundamentals of the Patient-Physician Relationship—Mr. Jones Keeps Calling

Additional Information

Collaboration, the hallmark of contemporary patient-physician interactions, is only possible in a trusting relationship. Patients need to trust that their well-being will be the primary consideration, and physicians need to trust patients to provide accurate information and appropriate feedback. New patients, particularly those first seen during emergencies, may not immediately trust their physicians, and, even when patients and physicians have worked together over time, a new medical event may alter the nature of the relationship. Physicians can sometimes view repetitive phone calls from their patients—especially those who seem to ignore the medical advice they receive—as impositions on their time. But these telephone calls are signs that the patient considers him- or herself to be in a relationship with a physician and that he or she trusts the physician.

Providing follow-up appointments allows the physician to assess the patient's on-going medical status and provides an opportunity to clarify the patient's understanding of what has been said to him or her during previous appointments. Moreover, such discussions engage the patient in the shared responsibility for maintaining or restoring his or her health. The physician's demonstrated commitment to patient care fosters or improves the patient-physician relationship.

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The people and events in this case are fictional. Resemblance to real events or to names of people, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. The viewpoints expressed on this site are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the AMA.