Following your doctor’s “orders,” such as remembering to take your medication or following a recommended treatment plan, can mean the difference between healthy joints and damaged ones, between remaining mobile and becoming disabled.

But what about a doctor who follows a patients’ orders or expectations? Both parties’ expectations play an integral role in this relationship’s dynamic. 

Doctor-Patient Dynamics

Like any relationship, the doctor-patient dynamic is based on meeting needs - and expectations - on both sides. In the case of the cut requiring stitches, the need is simple and clear -- and the expectation mutual -- to have the cut stitched with as little pain and scarring as possible. The patient’s expectation is that the doctor is competent to provide safe and proper treatment. If he pulls it off, a patient will likely consider him a “good” doctor.

But when a patient is choosing a doctor for arthritis, needs may be numerous and expectations may range from basic to grandiose. You may expect your doctor to know how to minimize joint erosions, avoid joint surgery and improve mobility -- all without risk of side effects. Or you may merely expect a prescription to help you through a flare.

And your needs and expectations may change depending on the urgency of the situation. For example, a patient who normally takes charge of her own health care may seek more guidance when faced with an unfamiliar and frightening complication. This patient may need her doctor to be a counselor on one visit or simply a confidante on another.

If your needs and expectations go unmet, you can leave disappointed, frustrated and feeling like your doctor is a dud. To avoid such situations, Iversen suggests taking time to evaluate your needs and expectations of your doctor. Then go to the doctor with a clear idea of your expectations, and make them clear to your doctor.

Ironically, the best antidote to having unmet needs yourself is to ensure you meet your doctor’s needs. While the doctor who sews your cut may need little more from you than to sit still and pay your bill, a doctor who treats arthritis needs extensive input from you and that requires trust - a key component in the doctor-patient dynamic.