Study finds doctors do have favorite patients

It's true, doctors do have favorites.

It’s true, doctors do have favorite patients. That’s the conclusion of a new study led by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

That doesn’t mean they play favorites, according to the research, which specifically found that the doctors were aware of their feelings and actively sought to provide good care for everyone.

“We discovered that doctors really thought about their relationship with patients, which is encouraging from a patient perspective,” said Joy Lee, study leader and a postdoctoral fellow in the department of health policy and management. “Their thinking really humanizes the patient-physician relationship.”

Twenty five physicians were interviewed from the Johns Hopkins medical system for the study, published online in the journal Patient Education and Counseling, and 22 reported they had favorites. Typically, the doctors said the favored patients weren’t always the most compliant but were the ones with whom they had long-term relationships.

Often the patients were sick or had been sick, which lead them to spend more time with the doctors. Such an experience led some doctors to begin liking some patients they previously found challenging.

The patients didn’t particularly benefit because their doctors’ liked them, aside from maybe getting a call back more quickly. Though doctors generally were better prepared to recognize and tackle a problem with their long-term patients.

The doctors reported favorite patients did enrich their professional experience, but they recognized the boundaries – so don’t expect a friend request on Facebook.

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