Publication Date



Journal of Patient Experience


The SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) pandemic introduced many challenges and nuances that have transformed medical practice and research. The uncertainty caused by COVID-19 led to inevitable challenges to patient-provider relationships. The ever-changing landscape of COVID-19 research and policy proved to be challenging for the medical community and patients. These challenges also exacerbated long-standing issues regarding patient-provider communication and trust. On the other hand, these challenges gave voice to a burgeoning patient advocacy community. Through social media, advocacy and patient organizing, patients harnessed their power and organized over challenges relating to COVID-19 fears and concerns, ramifications of "Long COVID," and much more. During this unprecedented pandemic, there was a realization that the science and research surrounding COVID-19 is evolving and that there may be a benefit to embracing the dynamic nature of research and the scientific process. We propose that providers and the medical community should consider epistemological humility, which acknowledges insufficiencies related to the state of medical knowledge with a sense of understanding and respect for not having all of the answers. We argue that there is untapped potential in saying, "We don't know" and explaining why. There is an implicit culture that providers should be responsible for knowing everything and solving every problem. Epistemological humility challenges this culture, and inherently gives credence and voice to patient perspectives. We assert that epistemological humility is necessity when addressing contemporary health challenges such as COVID-19.


clinician–patient relationship, COVID-19, patient expectations, physician engagement



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