Table 2. Qualities and Skills in Physician–Patient Relationships
  • Presence—An attentive and focused responsiveness to patients and their concerns. I am present when, irrespective of the time I have with patients, I demonstrate my interest in their well-being a people, rather than being distracted by chart or computer or even information I weigh while developing clinical assessments and plans.

  • Touch—As a physician, the physical examination may aid in confirming clinical suspicions. For some patients, the contact of my hands on their bodies may be the only way they get appropriate physical contact all day or all month.

  • Inquiry—The ability to convey interest in hearing what patients have to say in whatever way they know how to express it.

  • Authenticity—The sincerity with which I approach patients not only as their personal physician, but also as my true self—another human being.

  • Empathy—A feeling born of the knowledge that “we're all in the same boat” or that “I could be you.”28

  • Words—The primary medium through which I communicate assessments and plans to patients, words can help or can harm. I hope I choose them with conscious intent, to maximize the clarity and emotional power they can convey.