The doctor-patient relationship is a crucial part of the healing process that can significantly impact patient health outcomes and overall quality of life. A study published in The Primary Care Companion for CNS Disorders found that “the quality of communication during history-taking and management also affects outcomes (e.g., frequency of visits, emotional health, and symptom resolution) and that such communication extended beyond creation of the ‘plan.’”1 Improving doctor-patient communication shifts the patient from being a passive agent in their health care to an active one, allowing for equity in the relationship and a more engaged, personalized approach.
Patients who are engaged during their visit are more satisfied and thus more likely to follow the treatment plan co-created with their healthcare professionals.2 Over time, this yields a higher quality of life as patients see improvements in physiological symptoms3 and emotional well-being. Long-term well-being requires the patient to self-manage outside of the clinical setting; empowering them to make changes in their daily life is a therapy in and of itself.
Establishing a collaborative, therapeutic partnership is one of the core foundations of Functional Medicine. According to research conducted at Cleveland Clinic, patients with chronic illness receiving care within the Functional Medicine framework reported a higher quality of life. The authors stated that “patients in the Functional Medicine center demonstrated improvements that were significantly larger compared with patients seen at a family health center,”4 although the results were not immediate. The study found no significant difference in quality of life after six months at either center; however, drastic differences were observable at the 12-month marker. Changes in patient health do not happen overnight, but rather are the result of continuity, collaboration, and communication.
In the following podcast, Dr. David Jones, MD, a thought leader in Functional Medicine, discusses the importance of nurturing the patient-doctor relationship to help guide the patient through their journey of healing.
Topics covered in this podcast include:
- The value of the therapeutic partnership in practice.
- How compassionate listening improves that relationship.
- Empowering the patient to be active in the collaborative care relationship.
- The role of emotional support systems.
- Iterative healing and helping patients reframe past trauma.*
*Please note that this podcast briefly discusses a case involving the emotional trauma of sexual assault.
David Scott Jones, MD, is one of the co-founders of IFM and shaped the educational curriculum to increase the clinical utility of the approach. He is also a renowned family practice physician (now retired) who lives in Ashland, OR. He currently serves as president emeritus of the Board of Directors for IFM.
- Chipidza FE, Wallwork RS, Stern TA. Impact of the doctor-patient relationship. Prim Care Companion CNS Disord. 2015;17(5). doi:4088/PCC.15f01840
- Zolnierek KB, Dimatteo MR. Physician communication and patient adherence to treatment: a meta-analysis. Med Care. 2009;47(8):826-834. doi:1097/MLR.0b013e31819a5acc
- Kidd L. Better patient activation is a precursor to engagement in shared decision making. Evid Based Nurs. Published Online February 7, 2020. doi:1136/ebnurs-2019-103241
- Beidelschies M, Alejandro-Rodriguez M, Ji X, Lapin B, Hanaway P, Rothberg MB. Association of the functional medicine model of care with patient-reported health-related quality-of-life outcomes. JAMA Netw Open. 2019;2(10):e1914017. doi:1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.14017