What Makes Medico-Legal Aspects of A Doctor-Patient Relationship So Important?


"A good physician treats the disease, but a great physician treats the patient who has the disease." -William Osler (Canadian Physician, 1849-1919)

When you think of a doctor-patient relationship (DPR), you imagine the patient trusting the doctors with their lives and following the instructions given by the doctors with the utmost sincerity. Well, that might not be the case every once in a while, which is why doctors need to keep relevant patient data and documented records. A doctor-patient relationship is considered to be the core element in the ethical principles of medicine. DPR is established when a physician tends to a patient’s medical needs via check-ups, diagnosis, and treatment in an agreeable manner. Developing a positive, trusting bond with patients enables doctors to form accurate diagnoses and treatment plans. A smooth and honest DPR plays an important role in patient care and overall treatment outcomes.

What constitutes a Dynamic DPR?

There are various ways to form a trusting relationship between a physician and a patient. Here are some essential factors that doctors need to keep in mind to maintain a healthy DPR and how they can solve problems they might face in each case:

  1. Communication: Having good communication skills is essential to establishing DPR. There have been multiple studies indicating that effective communication between physician and patient results in various aspects of health consequences, such as

  • Patients' improved medical, functional, and emotional conditions.

  • Better patient compliance.

  • Enhanced fulfillment of patients.

  • Less chance of medical malpractice.

What doctors face: There have been instances wherein patients don’t follow their doctor’s advice or recommendations for different tests and later face bigger health conditions. This leads to patients accusing doctors of not informing or disclosing the severity of a situation.

How it can be solved: With health tech evolving every day, there are Smart EHR and EMR solutions that keep digitized records of the tests that have been prescribed to patients. Doctors can save themselves from legal obligations with these documented instructions.

  1. Empathy: Empathy is a vital value that ensures good quality DPR, which in turn enables doctors to understand the symptoms and needs of individual patients. There have been various studies that suggest that a physician’s empathy can improve the medical effect and the patient’s quality of life.

What doctors face: There have been instances wherein patients forget to take or take improper dosages of medicines, which results in ineffective treatment. The patient then blames the doctor for their incompetence.

How it can be solved: With technology and innovation growing hand in hand, there have been Smart EMR and EHR solutions that allow doctors to record instructions for patients to follow. This ensures patient adhesion and saves the doctors from being wrongly accused or blamed for ineffective treatment.

  1. Trust: Having an honest and trusting relationship with the doctor allows the patient to effectively discuss their health issues. Inculcating a trusting relationship with a patient enables doctors to make sure that the patient complies with their guidance, which consequently results in their health improvement.

What doctors face: Patients may sometimes fail to keep up with follow-up appointments or doubt the doctors when they recommend routine check-ups for patients. This can play a critical part in the treatment course and medication plan.

How can it be solved: EMR and EHR systems enable doctors to send reminders to their patients for their follow-up or routine appointments. Studies have shown that when patients feel cared for, they tend to trust the doctors more.

  1. Informed consent: This has to be taken into serious consideration as it is based on the moral and legal arguments of the patient’s autonomy (independence in decision-making). Along with trust, doctors need to be honest with the patient and his family to provide a genuine assessment of favorable and unfavorable outcome probabilities while presenting with the suggested therapy.

What doctors face: Emergency interventions like trauma or accidents need documented signed consent to get the patients on ventilators or ICU care. When these are not taken or missed, it can become a legal hassle for the doctors.

How it can be solved: EMR and EHR solutions help doctors keep up with digitized records and consent in real-time. Even during complete chaos or any traumatic situation, these systems keep documented consent that can be retrieved fast and be shown as evidence and save a doctor from all the legal hassle.

  1. Not keeping records or having physical records: Medical records are a vital asset in ensuring that hospitals are run effectively and efficiently. They not only support clinical decision-making but also provide evidence of policies and support hospitals in cases of litigation. But the challenges affecting physical medical records are storage, access, safety, and security. Unlike electronic medical records stored on cloud servers, paper medical records need physical space for storage purposes.

What doctors face: Not keeping records is also a huge vulnerability considering the medico-legal aspect. Physical medical record rooms are full of files and retrieving any document or consent from the pile is a huge task. If they can be accessed or retrieved in an emergency, they can become legal obligations.

How it can be solved: An EMR and EHR solution could help doctors digitize the medical records as they write on the prescription pad. These are digitized in real-time and can be accessed at any time, any place! Having a system that can retrieve important consent forms, recommended tests, and other medical information at the click of a button can save a doctor from legal hassles!

The Effects of DPR on Medical Specialties

Chronic health: Doctors who communicate well and treat patients with chronic illnesses have the power to improve the patient’s ability to manage their disease independently with adherence. When a patient monitors their blood pressure and adheres to medical regimens as instructed by the doctor, they’re more likely to manage health disorders such as hypertension and diabetes in a better and healthier way.

Psychiatry: DPR helps with good treatment outcomes in the field of psychiatry as well. The psychiatrist–patient relationship enables psychosomatic patients to overcome their mental symptoms when they have a better understanding of the illness. Studies indicate that psychiatric symptoms in HIV patients are treated by retaining the patient’s hope and providing adequate information regarding the disease and treatment.

With health tech improving and evolving with time, innovations and systems have made it possible for the doctor-patient relationship to include competence, communication, and better adherence to treatment. Innovations like WONDRx ensure better adherence to treatment combined with patient satisfaction, providing improved health and a better quality of life for both doctors and patients.