Societal perceptions of physicians: knights, knaves, or pawns?

Jain, S.H., Cassel, C.K.
Submitted: September, 2010

US perspectives on physicians have undergone a similar transformation with the increasing cost (both to taxpayers and to individual patients) of health care delivery. As physician behavior has been tied to these rising costs and increasing scrutiny has been applied to the quality of care delivered, policy discourse often reflects the perspective that physicians are an obstacle not an enabler to a functioning health care system. Physicians must thoughtfully consider whether and how they contribute to the perception that they are knights (well-intentioned stewards, patient at center), knaves (interested in themselves and their financial well-being first and their patients second), or pawns (physician is merely a function of the environment in which he or she practices and cannot be trusted to do so on their own accord. Left to their own devices, physician behaviors are unpredictable).