Education, Practice, and Organization of Healthcare in the 21st Century

New Dimensions in Patient–Physician Interaction: Values, Autonomy, and Medical Information in the Patient-Centered Clinical Encounter

Aakash Kumar Agarwal and Beth Brianna Murinson


Patient–physician interactions are increasingly influenced by the extraordinary diversification of populations and rapid expansion of medical knowledge that characterize our modern era. By contrast, the patient-physician interaction models currently used to teach medical trainees have little capacity to address these twin challenges. We developed a new model of patient-physician interaction to explicitly address these problems. Historically, models of patient–physician interaction viewed patient autonomy and the manifestation of clearly defined health care-related values as tightly linked, and it was assumed that patients’ medical knowledge was low. Unfortunately, this does not adequately represent patients such as 1) the highly educated non-medical specialist who possesses little familiarity with health-related values but is highly autonomous, and 2) the patient from a non-Western background who may have well-established health care-related values but a low sense of personal independence. In addition, it is evident to us that the assumption that all patients possess little medical knowledge can create alienation between patient and physician, e.g. the well-informed patient with a rare disease. We propose a para¬digm that models autonomy, health care-related values formation, and medical knowledge as varying from patient to patient. Four examples of patient types are described within the context of the model based on clinical experience. We believe that adopting this model will have implications for optimizing patient–physician interactions and teaching about patient-centered care. Further research is needed to identify relevant patient types within this framework and to assess the impact on health care outcomes.

Rambam Maimonides Med J 2012;3(3):e0017