Doctor/Patient Relationship Talcott Parsons Was The First Essay

Length: 5 pages Sources: 4 Subject: Healthcare Type: Essay Paper: #29501847 Related Topics: Symbolic Interactionist Perspective, Physician Assistant, Deviance, Medical Assistant
Excerpt from Essay :

Doctor/Patient Relationship

Talcott Parsons was the first social scientist to put forward the doctor-patient relationship. His functionalist, role-based advance defined examination of the doctor-patient relationship for some time to come. He began with the supposition that sickness was an appearance of dysfunctional deviance that necessitated reintegration with the social organism. Sickness, or contrived sickness, excused people from work and other tasks, and therefore was potentially harmful to the social order if uncontrolled. Upholding the social order necessitated the advance of a legitimized sick role to manage this deviance, and make sickness a midway state back to regular role presentation (Hughes, 1994).

According to Parsons, the doctor's role is to symbolize and communicate these norms to the patient in order to manage their deviance. Doctors demonstrate for Parsons the move to affect-neutral associations in modern society, with doctor and patient being protected by emotional detachment. Medical education and social role expectations convey normative socialization to physicians to act in the well-being of the patient rather than their own material interests, and to be steered by a democratic universalism rather than a personalized particularism. Because doctors have mastered a body of scientific knowledge, it is practical for the social order to permit physicians professional independence and authority, controlled by their socialization and role expectations (Hughes, 1994).

While the fundamental concept that norms and social roles influence sickness and doctoring has remained robust, there have been numerous changes to the particular basics of the patient-physician role relationship. The rise of health consumerism has encouraged more contractual and conflictual relationships between patient and doctor. An increasingly knowledgeable population has started to challenge medical authority, and treat the doctor-patient relationship as another provider-consumer association rather than as a sacred trust necessitating awe and respect. Opinion polls point toward a progressively declining confidence in physicians and in the American medical system in general. "The consumer, women's health, the holistic health movements, and the awareness of physician indifference and greed, have also encouraged patients to distrust physicians. These trends were often portrayed by medical sociologists as democratizing, but perceived by physicians with hesitation, predominantly in light of the rise of malpractice litigation" (Hughes, 1994).

An increasing amount of discontent suggests that the once valued doctor-patient relationship is no more. The relationship is the foundation of the medical system. Nobody can be assisted if doctors and patients aren't getting along. But more and more, research and subjective reports propose that a lot of patients don't trust doctors. About one in four patients feel that their doctors occasionally expose them to needless risk, according to data from a Johns Hopkins study published in the journal of Medicine. Other studies have shown that whether patients trust a doctor strongly influences whether they take their medication or follow up on tests and procedures (Parker-Pope, 2008).

The causes for all this frustration are many and complex. Doctors, facing waning compensation and higher expenses, have only minutes to spend with each patient. News reports about medical mistakes and drug industry pressure have increased patients' distrust. And the rise of direct-to-consumer drug advertising and medical Web sites have taught people to investigate their own medical problems and made them more doubtful and curious. Doctors used to be the only source for information on medical problems and what to do, but now people's knowledge is increasing and that is no longer true (Parker-Pope, 2008).

Researchers have found that the amount of personal association between a patient and doctor affects the quality of care. For the reason that health care is frequently disjointed and uncoordinated, it's ordinary for people to be cared for by different physicians. But researchers have found that people who have a good relationship with a specific doctor are more likely to obtain...


Studies have provided strong confirmation for the value of having a regular doctor. Researchers have found that people associated to a doctor were more likely to have health insurance, speak English and be non-Hispanic white. But they also found that connectedness was linked with larger differences in screening rates than either race or ethnicity (Doc-Patient Relationship May Be Key to Quality, 2011).

The process of founding a strong relationship with a specific physician represents an important key to understanding disparities in care. Greater insight into the role of patient-, provider- or practice-level barriers to establishing a personally connected primary care relationship may lead to enhanced quality of care for vulnerable patients. Pay-for-performance initiatives often rely on the ability to precisely assign performance measures to those practitioners who have some control over the outcome (Doc-Patient Relationship May Be Key to Quality, 2011).

The arrival of the information technology age has led to a rapid alteration in the doctor-patient dynamic. Before the Internet became host to an overabundance of medical information and advice, the doctor-patient relationship was restricted primarily to office consultations. In that location, doctors counseled patients on the best course of medical action, and the patients considered their options before moving forward. Now, the contemporary patient has the capability to access extensive information on nearly every medical condition. Today, the patient arrives prepared with information about possible diagnoses and courses of treatment. This reversal of roles presents a number of consequences for the routine practice of medicine. Patients are in a position to lobby their doctors about treatment, and treat medical advice with doubt and apprehension. On the other hand, in spite of the fact that access to a wealth of online resources has the prospective to alter the doctor-patient dynamic, it has not automatically replaced healthcare providers as the necessary medium of care. The full scope of this new doctor-patient relationship entails access to information, the quality of the information accessed, and how that information is understood and used by patients (The Doctor-Patient Relationship in the Internet Age, 2011).

The early evidence of this shift in patient-centered information has resulted in a number of theories on how the change affects the doctor-patient relationship. The multitude of medical information online has allowed for possible positive effects for the patient; the access to knowledge has the prospective to democratize the healthcare process. Patients theoretically will have the capability to play a larger role in medical decision-making, while the clinician would serve as a knowledgeable guide. This drive to the Internet for information has been fueled by an already strained doctor-patient relationship. "As the time doctors spent with their patients declined, the power of the Internet grew, and patients began to use the Internet out of frustration. The benefits of the Internet do not end with access to information, as support groups for individual disease have grown in popularity, and a number of studies suggest that patients who participate in these groups gained satisfaction with their medical experience" (The Doctor-Patient Relationship in the Internet Age, 2011).

The opposition to the use of online medical information is frequently rooted in questions about the quality of the available information. Physicians have indicated that only a small percentage of the information that patients bring in is either very relevant or very accurate to their condition, yet the same physicians report that in the preponderance of cases, this information has little effect on the result or quality of care. Even though there are authoritative websites, the medical information accessible online is often unscientific and self-published, by other patients reporting their personal experiences, rather than by clinicians submitting a peer-reviewed report of an illness. A considerable concern about online medical information is that it will deter patients from pursuing medical care because they feel as if they have adequate information for self-treatment or do not need to seek treatment; yet, patients appear to turn to their physicians to assess the information they find online (The Doctor-Patient Relationship in the Internet Age, 2011).

Another noteworthy and potentially negative effect of online…

Sources Used in Documents:


Hughes, J. (1994). Chapter One: The Doctor-Patient Relationship: A Review. Retreived from

Parker-Pope, T. (2008). Doctor and Patient, Now at Odds. Retrieved from

Quinlan, J. (2011). Doctor/patient relationship in flux today. Retreived from

The Doctor-Patient Relationship in the Internet Age. (2011). Retrieved from

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