Categories: ArticlesDoctor's Voice

Why Doctors Are Losing the Public’s Trust

We discussed this blog post, and more, with Dr. Girgis in a live #PWChat TweetChat at 3:00pm (ET) on November 30, 2017! 


In my mind, the doctor-patient relationship is sancrosanct. There is no relationship where the bond of trust should be so strong, outside of matrimony. As physicians, patients rely on us to help them make life-saving decisions. And we need patients to be honest with us so that we can give the highest quality medical advice. Yet, there has been an erosion in this relationship over recent years. Doctors are no longer held in such high esteem as they were decades ago. Even our own Commander-in-Chief, President Obama, alluded to the fact that doctors have financial incentive to do more surgeries. The public is losing their trust in us. They see us as driven for profit. They feel we don’t listen to their concerns anymore and don’t care what they want or need.

Why has the public lost trust in doctors?

♦  Third parties are often making decisions. For example, they dictate their own formularies, and we often have our hands tied as to what medications we can prescribe. I often have patients ask me for the “strong Stuff.” They don’t realize that doctors are limited in prescribing habits, and we are not withholding the Best medications. But, we are the ones in direct with the patient.

♦  Outlier doctors have been gaming the system. Most doctors truly put patients’ care first, before profit. But, there are a few who inappropriately use their medical degrees for profit. Just look at Dr. Oz trying to get rich promoting weight loss products with no proven benefit. These doctors make us all look bad.

♦  There are many mandates imposed on us that affect patient care. One example is meaningful use. Doctors now have to document many metrics, inputting data into our EHR systems, in order to meet requirements. Patients take this lack of eye-to-eye as a sign that we are more interested in their digital record than them. They feel we are no longer listening to them. They don’t realize that we don’t want to be doing this. It has been opposed on us from on high, and we will be penalized if we don’t.

♦  HMO’s have greatly cut reimbursements to doctors. In order for practices to stay afloat financially, we have to see more patients. We need to find more and more room to see these extra patients if we want to stay afloat. Patients feel this and take it as an indication that we are pushing them through for profit and don’t care about them.

♦  Media tends to portray doctors in a bad light. There are big stories about the pill mill doctors and those arrested for fraud or harassment. There are so many more amazing stories of heroic doctors around than the bad apples. But the press does not give them attention. People rather see the bad than the good. This too tends to paint us all in a negative light.

Medical diseases are becoming more complex, and people are living longer. There has never been a time where patients need to trust their doctors more. All doctors need to remember their oath and put the patient back in center focus. We all need to take a stand against those doctors who are abusing the system for their own gain. Patients need to learn that the vast majority us care about our patients and have their best interests in mind. We all need to become a team again. Patients need to regain our trust, and our profession needs to re-establish its integrity.

Originally posted in Nov. 2015


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Dr. Linda Girgis MD, FAAFP, is a family physician in South River, New Jersey. She holds board certification from the American Board of Family Medicine and is affiliated with St. Peter’s University Hospital and Raritan Bay Hospital. Dr. Girgis earned her medical degree from St. George’s University School of Medicine. She completed her internship and residency at Sacred Heart Hospital, through Temple University and she was recognized as intern of the year. Over the course of her practice, Dr. Girgis has continued to earn awards and recognition from her peers and a variety of industry bodies, including: Patients’ Choice Award, 2011-2012, Compassionate Doctor Recognition, 2011-2012. Dr. Girgis’ primary goal as a physician remains ensuring that each of her patients receives the highest available standard of medical care.

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View Comments

  • Siela,
    Your advice is hogwash. Cancer is real, not a hoax. I have seen cancer cells (malignancies) under the microscope myself, and I saw them being removed from a patient.

  • I am suffering from some digestive issues. I had to go to 6 Gastroenterologist and all they do is keep recording some stuff , not sure if they are listening to my issues. And they gave me high dose of antibiotics to treat my infection, without educating me abt the side effects and what to do abt it. For past 5 months I suffered at their hands. Non stop MRI’s , Ultra sound, it took 6 GI’s to tell me what is in my report and that too was not accurate. And aft my endoscopy was done , it showed my infection was gone. But still I was experiencing pain and similar symptoms. The. I did my own research and got stool
    Test done and it showed positive. When I wrote an email to the doc who did the endoscopy, he replied aft 10 days saying , “ Thanks for the update “ and then when I consulted a reputed GI , hebwaa more worse, he saw 3 Patients in 20 mins or so whenhe was supposed to see me. And he just spent 1 min time with me and when I asked why my endoscopy showed neg and stool test showed pos. He bluntly says couple of times “
    I DONT KNOW” I was stressed out scared if he does not know then who will know. Anyways he treated me like a customer and he a top knotch business man that I don’t five him good buss so I am waste customer to him and his reputated hospital. Then I star e seeing a hollistic doc who did listen and healing me , and for past few weeks getting better. Tho long way to go as the GI’ have damaged my system . I hate them what they did to me . I curse them.

  • It is reassuring to know that a family doctor is someone to be trusted. This is nice to know since it is true that there are heroic doctors out there. My sister would love having this reassurance since she is looking for a family doctor in the new area she moved to.

  • It's pretty simple.

    You make patients wait. You don't really listen. You work your dumbass algorithm. You aren't particularly empathetic. You recite some rote bullcrap about exercise and mindfulness. And you finish it up with exactly no feedback on what your thoughts are on the diagnosis and treatment.

    Then we pay tons of money. And if you have anything outside of the norm, you'll still be waiting to find out what it is for 2 years. I diagnosed my own disease. I still can't find anyone who can help me get my voice back.

    It is killing me to lose faith in you. But I have.

  • 1. A lot of Doctors think they know your body better than you do. They are arrogant and egotistical. Their 7 years of med school, often their private school and elitest family background they have grown up being told by their family they are better than you. So of course when they see a patient they think they are god and superior.
    Note to doctors; you aren't.

    2. Social media and Google searches mean patients can do a lot of research before seeing a doctor. I often go into an appt and can rattle research off that talks about new treatment methods the GP hasn't even heard of! We need to stop being so reliant on doctors, they are human and fallible and we need to own our own health regime. The doctor is an expert but not a know it all. Walk away from any doctor who acts like they are; if you don't they are putting you at an elevated level of health risk.

    3. Doctors ARE money driven.they often seek to become senior medical consultants because when they get to that point they charge a heap more and do less. A doctor working in an ER at a hospital is paid ok but does huge hours. So they are mostly all trying to climb up higher where there is more specialisation and more money. A doctor is not immune to greed and the desire for wealth. If a doctor's salary was 50 K a year imagine how many current doctors would be doing something else more financially rewarding. Most of them!

    I no longer trust doctors. They are there to take my money. Ask for constant repeat referrals. They don't listen to me as a patient. They don't try and fault find. They Lazer focus on one or two symptoms them brush you off.

    You as the patient know your body and what normal feels like for your body far better than ANY doctor. You live in your body. You know it. A doctor doesn't. Particularly not one who spends no or very little time to try understand it.

  • St. George's University School of Medicine provides a back door (like open admissions at community colleges and some four year granting colleges in the U.S.) in to medicine for those not good enough to get accepted at American medical schools. They are the rejects that apply to offshore Caribbean medical schools in the hopes of a second chance at becoming an M.D.

  • So, a long time ago, I was legal guardian for my mother. She was in a nursing home. The home had a doctor who came in every two weeks. I saw this happen. He would look at charts, no more than 30 seconds, and literally walk by patients. He would charge, I think, 100 bucks a patient. In 25 minutes or so, he was able to bill over 2000 dollars. How you do you trust members of a profession who do this? I'm not sure you do. Sure, I've had doctors help. But I've also seen a lot of greed. I've also taught a lot of undergraduates who want to be doctors. I've never heard any of them stress helping people as a motivating factor. It's always about lifestyle. That's why they want to go to med school. Also, after college, I worked as medical copy editor and worked with physicians. Some of them were interesting. Most of them weren't. I also saw that journals tended to skew results of research according to who pays for the research.

  • "Most doctors truly put patients’ care first, before profit." This is a comforting thought, but I don't think it's based on reality. In my experience, the opposite is true. Most doctors care about profit, not patients' care.

    • Maybe the public's trust in doctors is eroding because doctors AREN'T LISTENING TO THEIR PATIENTS! I told my doctor for years I was having pain all through my body, I was so stiff I was falling down, I was so tired all the time I had trouble staying awake? Did he listen? Apparently not, because he never once said maybe I should stop taking a statin and see if that was the problem. When I did research on the Internet, I found out about side effects of statins. I stopped taking the statin and now I feel so much better that my co-workers are asking what I've been doing to be so much healthier. The doctor always said he was the one with the medical degree, so why am I the one who had to figure out it was the statin making me sick? If doctors want trust, maybe they should try listening to patients and at least make an attempt to figure out what's wrong.

  • I'm sorry but even the first sentences in this article made me laugh: "In my mind, the doctor-patient relationship is sancrosanct. There is no relationship where the bond of trust should be so strong, outside of matrimony."


    It's been over 35 years since I've felt anything remotely akin to a doctor-patient relationship. Doctors are cogs in a corporate wheel. They aren't the doctors I knew as a child in the 60's, who made house calls and sent you Christmas and birthday cards. The doctors now are arrogant, intolerant, hurried, people.

    Their staff can't manage a "How are you today?" as they walk you back to a room. You see nothing but their back and their asses as they walk in front of you, then order you around like you are in a Russian Gulag - "Step on the scale, go in this room, put your purse there, roll of your sleeve." I can't stand it.

    Today I spent thousands of dollars on x-rays. I was sent the results in an e-mail with medical terminology and no explanation of the results. I still don't know what is wrong with me.

    Today I consequently made the decision that outside of a couple perscription drugs I take, I am no longer doing physicals, blood work, doctor visits or anything else unless I'm so sick I can't stand it. I will see a naturopath from now on. It's because it's such a depressing industry anymore. It's like the DMV. (The X-Ray lab actually had us pull DMV like number tabs and called them out just like that).

    The advertising about "caring" and "compassion" is a load of crap. Nurses are better than doctors but not only does the US Healthcare system bankrupt Americans and makes them slaves to their jobs for insurance, they offer cold, indifferent care that is not worth the money. It's corporate America. That's all.

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