Patients can evaluate doctors’ performance – different viewpoints and unique perspectives

Researchers in the Netherlands looked into what role patients with respiratory disease want to play in evaluating their doctor.

The study, published in Health Expectations, looked at how patients see their role in providing feedback to their doctor. They interviewed 25 patients with respiratory problems about their experiences with providing feedback and how they would most like to provide it.

What they found

Every patient is unique.

The experiences that a patient had affected whether they wanted to provide feedback to their doctor.

Whether a patient wanted to provide feedback changed depending on how they felt about their relationship with their doctor and if they felt that there was a power difference between themselves and the doctor. Changes in this relationship or how advanced the patients’ disease was also affected this decision. The researchers found three main patient perspectives.

  • The proactive perspective
  • The restrained perspective
  • The outsider perspective

Patients with a proactive perspective felt that they were able to assess the doctor’s ability to communicate with them.  The patients with a restrained perspective were more likely to hold back and felt that doctors were the experts in charge. The outsider perspective did not feel that they knew enough to be able to evaluate their doctor. Some people thought they had too little contact with their doctor to give their opinion.

This research was done with patients in the Netherlands but similar differences are likely to be seen in other countries.

What this means

Based on their findings, the researchers note that all patients are different.

It is important to think about different viewpoints, and to respect patient preferences. Some patients want to play a role in evaluating the performance of their doctor. The researchers have found that it is important to have a balanced doctor-patient relationship. It is important to provide a safe environment where patients feel comfortable giving feedback. Researchers and policy makers should include patients to learn how to encourage them to give feedback. Proactive patients, who are comfortable providing feedback, should be involved as they may inspire people with a restrained perspective or those who feel like outsiders to join in. 


Carolin Sehlbach is a researcher at the Department of Educational Research and development, at Maastricht University in Maastricht, the Netherlands. Carolin is an ERS/EU RESPIRE 3 Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellowship from the European Respiratory Society and the European Union’s H2020 research and innovation programme.

Truus Teunissen is an experienced expert in the field of respiratory disease and researcher at the Amsterdam UMC in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. 

This summary was produced as part of a lay writing project that is delivered by the European Lung Foundation. We work closely with researchers and health professionals to teach them about how to write to make research accessible patients and the public. If you are interested in learning more about this, please contact us on