Academic journal article Journal of School Health

An Analysis of the Doctor-Patient Relationship Using Patch Adams

Academic journal article Journal of School Health

An Analysis of the Doctor-Patient Relationship Using Patch Adams

Article excerpt


Navigating the contemporary health care system represents an arduous challenge for consumers. In response to this challenge, health educators should prepare informed and skilled consumers to assume active roles in their health care. Through active participation in health care decisions, consumers can maximize the quality and duration of doctor-patient relationships. More importantly, consumers can develop lifelong commitments to their health.

According to Dr Bernie Siegel, author and physician, the doctor-patient relationship is analogous to a marriage or partnership in which the "patient" is a "respant" or an active participant in the health care process. (1) In many respects, the doctor-patient relationship mirrors the teacher-student relationship. Effective doctors and teachers are knowledgeable, understanding, empathetic, personable, nonjudgmental, qualified, affiliated with an accredited academic institution, and committed to maintaining knowledge of current research by reviewing journals and attending professional conferences. Above all, effective doctors and teachers listen to people they serve. Similarly, effective patients and students are attentive, prepared, responsible, resourceful, assertive, and accountable for their actions. Moreover, effective patients and students are skilled note takers.

The role of a patient as a note taker cannot be underestimated. Note taking enables a patient to record symptoms, current medications, and questions prior to a doctor's visit. Note taking also provides an avenue for documenting strategies for medical self-care and seeking clarification during a doctor's visit. A patient's advocate can assume responsibility for the tedious and somewhat distracting process of note taking.

Both doctors and patients are forced to contend with issues related to paperwork and insurance coverage. Many Americans are uninsured (2) or underinsured (3) and do not have the full luxury of benefiting from the doctor-patient relationship. Despite being insured, individuals who benefit from long-term effects of the doctor-patient relationship often succumb to barriers such as fear, embarrassment, failure to disclose symptoms, and selective listening.

Faced with the aforementioned barriers and challenge of meeting medical needs of a diverse population, physicians increasingly are becoming sensitized to the importance of cultural competence. (4) Physicians also are learning to serve and adapt to technologically savvy consumers who regularly navigate the Internet for health information and medical advice. (5)

With the rise of consumer-driven health care (6) and the Internet (5) during the past couple of decades, doctors have relinquished maximum control to provide patients with greater opportunities for participating in medical decisions. (7) As indicated by Benbassat, Pilpel, and Tidhar, (8) clinicians have a professional responsibility to articulate health information and assess patients' willingness to engage in health care decisions. Patient-centered health care has resulted in greater compliance with treatment regimens, (9) improved health outcomes, (10) and patient satisfaction. (11) Above all, patient-centered health care has resulted in increased emphasis on the doctor-patient relationship. (7)

Perhaps one of the most heartwarming illustrations of the doctor-patient relationship is the film Patch Adams. (12) Based on a true story, Patch Adams depicts a medical student's passion for revolutionizing the field of medicine through a patient-centered humanistic approach. The purpose of this activity is to acclimate students to the dynamics of the doctor-patient relationship through exposure to a film clip from Patch Adams and a series of instructional methods designed to promote responsible health care consumerism.


This activity is designed for high school students enrolled in personal health courses, but has the potential to be adopted for use among college students enrolled in personal and/or consumer health courses. …

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