Types of patients encountered in medical practice: Guest blogger Dr. Shalini Ratan

Every patient is UNIQUE. Reason being:

  • Patients are all people, with individual differences
  • The same treatments and actions may not work for every patient
  • Some patients may interpret what you say to them in different ways

The Health Belief Model is a well researched description of patients’ beliefs about health and related matters. It has following elements:

  1. Health Motivation: It is about personal interest in their conditions and the readiness & motivation to bring change in their conditions.

    Health motivated patients expect to be considered as partners by their healthcare providers in the medical decision process. They show greater willingness to exercise accountability and responsibility for their own health care.

  2. Perceived Vulnerability: This relates to the degree to which they believe in the diagnosis and its possible consequences.

    These patients do not adhere to the proposed management plan until and unless they are convinced with the diagnosis made. It is based on their perceived thinking about their condition. Such patients need to be managed by the counseling ability of the medical practitioner.

  3. Perceived Seriousness: Patients vary in their beliefs about the consequences of contracting any illness or leaving it untreated.

    Such patients either are too anxious about getting a disease (eg: even minor skin blemishes can be related to be skin cancer by them), or they could be non-serious about their health, like a girl smoking at a young age and having the least concern about the harmful effects in her later years. This class of patients requires a paternalistic attitude by their physicians.

  4. Perceived risk & benefits: Patients weigh up advantages and disadvantages of taking any particular course of action.

    Here the patient would prevent himself from complying with the treatment because, in his own mind, the risk of treatment outweighs the benefits. Eg: The patient does not want to continue with the insulin therapy prescribed to him, assuming it could lead to drug dependence.

    The physician would need to engage this group of patients with a positive conversation, explaining to them the need for the treatment plan. They would also need to council these patients so that they can continue with the prescribed regimen without self-created notions.

Therefore, the patients require different communication styles depending[s2If !is_user_logged_in()]…

[/s2If][s2If is_user_logged_in()] on their belief systems, which in turn are based on race, culture, religion or society. The doctor would have to explore the patient’s agenda and talk about what matters the most to them. This would help to understand them better.

Patient-Physician Communication is thus tailored to the patient’s concerns, feelings and expectations.

Adapted from: The Doctor’s Communication Handbook by Peter Tate, 6th edition, 2010.

Editor’s Note: Which of these is the most difficult type of patient to work with? Share your thoughts and tips in the comment area below.

This article originally appeared in Healthradii.com and has been republished with their permission.

Dr. Shalini Ratan Dr. Shalini Ratan, MD, is Founder and Chief Knowledge Facilitator at Nirvan Life Sciences Pvt Ltd. Mumbai, India.


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  1. dr suresh chhatwani
    Posted Nov 2013 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

    type 2 ie percieved vulnareblity
    as it will b difficult for prctnr to.change percieved thinking.

    • Dr. Shalini Ratan
      Posted Nov 2013 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

      Yes Dr. Suresh…it is difficult to change anyone’s Thinking, not just the patient. So I suppose the only option would be to council them with no intention to change but to understand better.

  2. dr suresh chhatwani
    Posted Nov 2013 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

    in family practice we get the pt gen who have faith in doctor…describe their symptoms..and require that attending dr will give remedy/prscrptn….and by taking medcn he/she will b cured…..most of times it works.
    acc to my belief most common illnesses r self limiting pts get GOOD results. and cr goes to dr.
    and once in routine if pt doubts..asks more Qs…has certain beliefs than he is less likely to b benifited by treatment.

    so thre r some sober pts…while on other hand thre r SMART PTS…/demanding pts/obeying pts???….anxious/nervous pts….each will require diff handling/skills of drs.

    • Dr. Shalini Ratan
      Posted Nov 2013 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

      Yes I agree. Patients would require different handling skills.

  3. N.P. viswanathan
    Posted Nov 2013 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    Faith is the essence of all cures

  4. Mohamed Althaf
    Posted Jan 2014 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

    there are these patients who come with their own diagnosis and demand there own treatment. any other course proposed is not heeded,

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