PLoS One. 2020 Oct 21;15(10):e0240747. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0240747. eCollection 2020.
BACKGROUND: Mistrust and conflicts in patient-provider relationships (PPR) have become prevalent in China. The frequency of verbal and physical violence against healthcare workers has been increasing, but few interventions seem to be effective. Limited prior research has focused on the perspectives of healthcare professionals in training. This paper aimed to understand their viewpoints and conceptualize potentially actionable areas for future policy interventions.
METHODS: We analyzed de-identified training registration data of a convenience sample of 151 healthcare students and 38 junior professionals from 20 provinces in China. One open-ended question in the registration form asked the participant to comment on PPRs in China. We used qualitative thematic coding to analyze the narrative data. All answers were categorized into three overarching frames: patients, providers, and external agencies/regulations. Frequently mentioned themes in each frame were evaluated to generate an overall theoretical framework.
FINDINGS: Although fewer than 25% indicated that current PPRs are “good” or acceptable, 98% of respondents were optimistic about the future improvement of these relationships. The leading factors of PPRs mentioned as patient-relevant were eroding trust in the physician, unrealistic expectations, and ineffective communication. The provider-relevant themes highlighted were poor service quality, ineffective communication, and heavy workload. Leading themes relevant to external agencies or regulations were dysfunctional administration system, negative media reports, and disparity in healthcare resource distribution.
INTERPRETATION: Healthcare professionals in training had a negative view of the current situation but had confidence in future improvement. Patient, provider, and societal factors all contributed to the tension between patients and providers. All aspects of the healthcare sector should be carefully considered when contemplating policy or social interventions to improve the patient-provider relationship.