Top 10 Attributes of Patient-Centered Healthcare Providers (aka,Superstar Clinicians)
Updated: May 5
The moment is indelibly imprinted on my brain, the setting an in-patient hospital room. I had spent the night in the Houston hospital after having my second heart ablation the day before, a radiofrequency ablation for my inappropriate sinus tachycardia and for focal atrial tachycardia I didn’t even know I had. I was happy to see my electrophysiologist that morning, because, quite honestly, I had a few questions. I wanted to better understand what my heart was doing, so I could do whatever I could to improve my chances of living a long and healthy life, and quite frankly, stay out of his office and electrophysiology lab in the future.
After explaining to me what he had seen and done during the procedure the day before, I asked him what was going on with my heart. Why was there more than one arrhythmia? What had caused that?
He said, “I don’t know.” The question had made him obviously uncomfortable, as he got up from his chair and began walking out of the room as he answered. He added, “I’m glad you have a pacemaker and are paced most of the time, because I don’t trust your natural heart rhythm.”
He may have felt that his expertise had fallen short of my expectations, but I loved his answer. I said, “That’s okay.” I mean, if I had a crazily, easily excitable heart that just liked to do its own thing, multiple arrhythmias and all, it was what it was. And if medical research and this physician’s expansive experience couldn’t explain it just yet and slap a pretty diagnosis to the overall phenomenon, well, that was the answer I needed. His authentic and honest response only made me trust his judgment more. He had the humbleness to know he did not know and could not explain everything. That, my friends, is the calling card of a master clinician! That is the physician you can trust.
While my two books focus quite a bit on the less than fabulous clinicians I encountered, I love to highlight the bright spots in my journey. Few as they seemed, these were the clinicians that made an immeasurable impact on my health and the ability of me and my family to return to normal lives. The actions of several key clinicians and surgeons actually saved my life, twice!
So I dedicate this to you, the caring healthcare professionals who do things right, every day, with every patient. These physicians and allied health care clinicians take their time to treat every patient before precisely as they would care for their very own family member. Chances are, this clinician is frequently late to your appointment, as they find meeting their patients’ needs to be more valuable than staying perfectly on schedule. Their schedule is so full, it is difficult to even get onto their schedule, because their patients recognize great care when they see it, and spread the word to their friends and family. Finally, this clinician no doubt stays late every night to make personal phone calls without interruption to patients to offer difficult tests results or diagnoses, or to offer more time to answer patients’ questions. They really are the superstars of medicine. They don’t receive extra pay or special recognition for the sacrifices they make for their patients, but I do know that they reap the satisfaction of going home not only weary and tired every day, but satisfied that they have positively impacted the lives of their patients. Thank you for what you do!
So here it is! The top 10 attributes of the patient-centered healthcare provider.
10. Listen to patients without interruption and judgment. They build a foundation of trust with each patient that starts by believing what the patient is reporting during the interview portion of the exam.
9. Give honest opinions and advice.
8. Authentically care, as demonstrated by the level of attention, effort, and time spent on the case. But it starts with both verbal and non-verbal cues in the exam room.
7. Order, gather, and review all pertinent tests prior to arriving at a diagnosis.
6. Complete their own independent thought process about the diagnosis prior to reading the opinions of previous clinicians to specifically avoid herd bias.
5. Take their time when explaining difficult diagnoses or treatments, and save time for adequate questions in that moment. Gives their phone number and email address for future questions the patient/family may have.
4. Say, “I don’t know,” when they do not have the answer.
3. Find the answer (if available) to what they do not know and communicate the answer with their patients in a timely fashion.
2. Refer the patient to another provider if they are not the right specialist to diagnose or treat their patient.
1. Recognize that a patient's value is not defined by the diagnosis listed in the chart.
Jill Murphy is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and founder of MotionWorks Physical Therapy and an advocate for patient-centered care. A Christian wife and mother of three, she survived a seven year journey through the broken American healthcare system in search for an answer to a heart arrhythmia that appeared during pregnancy. A stroke, open heart surgery for constrictive pericarditis, and several other surgeries later, Jill is telling her story of unfailing resilience in her upcoming book, Doctor Heal Thyself. Having grown up on a dairy farm 40 minutes from Lambeau Field, Jill is an avid Green Bay Packers and Wisconsin Badgers fan, and is up for any outdoor activity with her husband Tim and three children, including walking, biking, throwing the football around, hiking in scenic locales, gardening, and coaching a middle school basketball game or two.