Moving Us Closer To Osler
A Miller Coulson Academy of Clinical Excellence Initiative

“Doctors Are From Mars, Patients Are From Venus”


Physicians and patients need to work on their relationship. If doctors work on their listening skills and patients learn to be better self-advocates, we can build trust and become better healthcare partners. 

In 2009, John Gray published a bestseller on relationships called “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus,” about how couples can improve their relationships by better understanding differences in their communication styles and emotional needs. Clinicians and patients are also part of a relationship which needs nurturing and adaptation to current practice processes.  


The patient-doctor relationship began as one of beneficent paternalism guided by the Hippocratic Oath. Over time, it’s evolved into a patient-centered partnership in which the patient voice and patient rights are paramount. However, new administrative stressors on healthcare professionals catalyzed by the EHR, payer reforms, and emphasis on population health, along with invigorated patient consumerism, have challenged our relationship, and we need some counseling. Physicians must actively listen to better understand  patients’ needs and to rely on care teams in order to have sustainable work-life balance. Here are a few ways in which we can begin to reset the doctor-patient relationship: 


1. Help patients understand physicians’ new team-based ways of working that are patient-centered and doctor-sustaining. 

2. Clinicians must improve relational communication skills–the bedrock of all relationships. 

3. Encourage patient trust in all care team members, from phone staff to nurses and clinicians. 

4. Help patients improve health literacy and become informed self-advocates. 







This piece expresses the views solely of the author. It does not necessarily represent the views of any organization, including Johns Hopkins Medicine.