The recipe to a successful patient-provider relationship

Jeannie Berg outlines the responsibilities of both the healthcare provider and patient as a way to a successful patient-provider relationship.

Defining healthcare

Every day, 24/7, people who work in the healthcare industry provide care to millions of patients, from newborns to the very ill thus forming a patient-provider relationship. The healthcare industry is one of largest providers of jobs in most countries around the world. Many healthcare jobs are in hospitals. Others are in nursing homes, doctors’ offices, dentists’ offices, outpatient clinics, private practices, and laboratories. There is a vast range of services rendered by professionals to patients today.

These are our healthcare providers. A healthcare provider is a person or company that provides a healthcare service to you. In other words, your healthcare provider takes care of you.

How healthcare has evolved

The world of healthcare has expanded over the last hundred years. Many things have improved; new discoveries have been made and there is major research being done on so many different aspects of healthcare. What was once thought of as impossible and unthinkable may have now even become the new norm.

Until the 20th century, hospitals were places associated with the poor and where people went to die. The wealthy were treated at their homes by doctors who made house calls 100 years ago. Physicians were not paid by hospitals. They volunteered to treat the poor to help build their reputation. Today hospitals are places of hope and innovation.

In this modern age, many more people have access to healthcare providers and with that comes new challenges.

Positive patient-provider relationship

Patient needs have evolved. Patients are not simply looking to visit their doctors to cure a disease. They now also want a positive patient-provider relationship that yields a positive patient experience. Patient-provider relationships have emerged as cornerstones of quality healthcare.

Trust, knowledge, regard, and loyalty are some of the elements that form the doctor-patient relationship, which has an impact on patient outcomes. There also must be empathy, strong communication, and shared decision-making to ensure a positive patient-provider relationship.

Patients are generally looking for a provider who is knowledgeable, listens to patient concerns, explains medical concepts clearly and in layman’s terms, and spends as much time as necessary during care encounters.


Here comes the first challenge: there are simply not enough healthcare providers to go around. However, patients still want their “piece of pie” which they have every right to. Though, “I’m paying for this, you know!” could be articulated in a softer approach.

This makes for many challenges and with COVID taking up so much of all providers’ time, the patient must compromise even more on interaction and time with a provider.

How can we solve this challenge?

Firstly, a patient must try to be prepared for his visit to his healthcare provider. This helps that the minimum time is spent with the maximum benefit.

Being prepared for your visit entails that you have jotted a few of your concerns down so that you can address them with your provider, whether you are visiting a doctor or consulting a physiotherapist.

Concerns would be like: What does my treatment entail? What is the prognosis? How long will it be to get well? What must I do?

Things to consider:

  • Most healthcare appointments need to be made at least the day before.
  • Ask for a longer appointment if you think you will need more time.
  • Be on time for your appointment and be patient if the provider is running late. He/she too is only trying their best.
  • Let the healthcare service know of any preferences you have, such as if you would like to see a female doctor.
  • Ask if there is anything you need to bring with you (such as X-rays) or that you should do to prepare (such as fasting).
  • If you are having multiple tests, find out if you need to have them in a particular order, so that you can book them that way.

Providers have duties. What are they?

  • Consult with patients, discuss their healthcare needs, and offer advice.
  • Diagnose illnesses and offer prognoses as required.
  • Provide a medical service or perform a procedure depending on the patient’s needs.
  • Prescribe medication and/or provide the best course of action.

Patients do have rights. What are they?

  • They have the right to be treated with respect, allowed to obtain their medical records (which is their responsibility to keep safe and private if they keep them on their person).
  • Patients are allowed to make a treatment choice and give informed consent.
  • They can also refuse treatment and can make decisions about end-of-life care.

But patients are not without responsibilities as well

  • Take care of his/her health (and that includes being compliant and adherent to correctly using his medication and following advice given by the provider).
  • Care for and protect the environment. Do not throw those syringes and needles into the trash, for example.
  • Respect the rights of other patients and healthcare providers.
  • Utilise the healthcare system properly and do not abuse medical aid/insurances’ available benefits by fraud and allowing other persons access to their benefits.
  • Use your medical aid wisely. Don’t consult your HCP for things that cost your medical aid unnecessary money. For example, like phoning your doctor for a prescription of deworming medication. This is something you can buy over the counter at any pharmacy.
  • Understand the local health services and what they offer and know how their medical aid works. This is not his provider’s responsibility.
  • For optimum results, they must provide healthcare providers with the relevant and accurate information for diagnostic, treatment, rehabilitation, or counselling purposes.
  • A good idea is to advise the healthcare providers on their wishes regarding death.
  • Compliance with the prescribed treatment or rehabilitation procedures is also a huge responsibility.
  • A patient, even if he/she has medical insurance or medical aid, is still responsible for the payment of any health bills and it is not for the provider to fight this battle for the patient.

Communication, respect and boundaries

When both parties commit to honouring their responsibilities, a patient-provider relationship can be successful. A vital element of good patient-provider relationship is communication. Communication is a two-way street and must always be kept open. It is also important to create clear boundaries.

Providers and patients need be polite, considerate, and honest with each other.

Patients should be treated with dignity and as individuals. Respect patients’ privacy and right to confidentiality. Support patients in caring for themselves to improve and maintain their health.

Providers also need to be treated with the necessary respect, and with both sides paying attention to this a health relationship between provider and patient is possible.

Jeannie Berg


Jeannie Berg is a pharmacist and accredited diabetes educator. She served as Diabetes Education Society of South Africa (DESSA) chairperson for four years and was a committee member for many years and served on an advisory board for South African diabetes guidelines as well. She also does online tutoring in diabetes management for The University of South Wales.

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