The patient-doctor relationship in the transnational healthcare context

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Moving away from paternalism to more equal forms of interaction in the patient–doctor relationship has been seen in positive light by policymakers, patients’ rights advocates and scholars alike. Nonetheless, against the background of commercialisation and consumerism, empirical research showcases how reduced asymmetries bring in tensions and friction between patients and doctors (Greenfield et al . 2012). This paper contributes to the discussion through the examination of the patient–doctor relationship in the niche setting of private transnational healthcare markets which involve patients travelling overseas for care and where commodification, consumerism and care go hand‐in‐hand. It is geographically focused on two large cities in South‐Eastern Europe as settings where health care is provided to foreign patients – Athens and Istanbul – and empirically draws on qualitative interviews with doctors who run small/medium practices. The findings highlight that, despite excessive consumerism, power asymmetries are not mitigated but patient vulnerability shapes the patient–doctor relationship. In the transnational context, the patient faces an additional source of vulnerability: a condition of foreignness. As such, the findings stress that one relationship model (the consumerist) does not, per se , replace an older one (e.g. the Parsonian). Instead, the consumer–provider dimension co‐exists with the client–expert, patient–doctor and, finally, host–guest relation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1685-1705
JournalSociology of Health & Illness
Issue number8
Early online date16 Sept 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2019

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • patient-doctor relationship
  • consumerism
  • commercialisation
  • transnational health care
  • medical tourism
  • travel


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