Primary Article

Troublesome Aspects of the Patient-Physician Relationship A Study of Human Factors

Authors: JOSEPH M. MERRILL MD, LILA LAUX, PhD, JOHN I. THORNBY PhD

Abstract

ABSTRACT: We investigated three onerous aspects of the patient-physician relationship using contemporary psychosocial research methods. A “hassle index” identified three dimensions of vexation in practice: problems with running a practice, medical conditions of patients, and social characteristics of patients. In general, hassle was found to be dependent on the type of practice, but physicians were equally annoyed by unlikeable patients irrespective of their practice site. Diagnostic errors made by resident physicians from various clinics were more related to an unlikeable medical disorder than to differences in the clinics. To clarify doctors negative feelings toward patients, a questionnaire measuring antipathy toward specific patient types was administered to physicians. Responses indicated that physicians antipathy was unrelated to the doctors ethical beliefs and their medicopolitical orientation. Personality variables indicative of“extremeness” of opinion about patients included high needs for dominance, low needs for nurturance and “intraception” (the ability to analyze the behavior and motives of others), and low self-esteem. Personality profiles of physicians least vexed by medical practice reflected less psychopathology—less self-derogation, less need for emotional support, and more extroversion. Medical College Aptitude Test scores revealed that high science scores were associated with extremeness of opinion, and low scores on general information were indicative of increased susceptibility to the daily irritations of medical practice.

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References