Are You Your Doctor’s Favorite Patient?

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Doctor and patient.

Sure, doctors are supposed to be objective and to provide an equally high standard of care for everyone. But according to recent research out of Johns Hopkins, most physicians have favorites among their patients.

The study authors conducted in-depth interviews with 25 primary care physicians to get a sense of how their relationships with patients impacted the care they provided. The good news is that the doctors reported liking most of their patients, and that they claimed to strive for a high standard of care for everyone, no matter their personal feelings. (One participant did admit that he was probably more quick to return a phone call from a favored patient, however.)

But doctors are people, too, and 22 out of 25 of them reported having favorites. But the “favorites” weren’t necessarily those who most closely resembled their physician, or who were most compliant with doctor’s orders, as you might expect. Instead, that preferred patient was someone they’d seen regularly over the course of years–sometimes because they had a particularly complicated or lengthy illness– and developed a warm relationship with.

“Doctors are human too, and as humans we like some people more than others – in both our personal and professional lives,” explained Albert Wu, a professor at the university’s Bloomberg School for Public Health.  “We want our doctors to be humanistic, and patients benefit from positive regard. It is good to recognize it, to avoid playing favorites, which is different than having favorites.”

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