Objective: Doctors have a varying effect on patients' physical health. This means that there are doctors that are more effective than others. Even though the doctor is a part of very many medical interactions, it is not known in which way exceptionally good doctors differ from their peers. After authoring two systematic and one methodological review on identifying exceptional doctors, the authors in this qualitative interview-based study take a bottom-up, inductive approach to answer the question of what makes an exceptionally good doctor.
Methods: About 10-15 semi-structured interviews of medical doctors of any specialty who speak English will be conducted. Recruitment will be through the authors' network and their referrals. Questions will be whether they have an opinion on what makes an exceptionally good doctor, whether they have met such a person and how did this doctor differ from other doctors. The interviews will be done by a 62-year old PhD student who is not a clinician but has extensive experience in having personal conversations as a financial adviser. This could be helpful as the interviewer is only aware that there are exceptionally good doctors but has no notion how exceptionally good doctors differ from their colleagues.
Analysis: A six-phase thematic analysis in an experiential framework as per Braun and Clarke will be implemented with the aim to find out what the doctors think and have experienced. This is an inductive approach using a realist epistemological position under the assumption that it is possible to acquire truthful knowledge on what makes exceptionally good doctors.
Discussion: Previous qualitative research on exceptionally good doctors consisted of interviewing author-selected exceptionally good doctors. This study takes a step back from this approach by asking the peers of exceptionally good doctors how they define being exceptionally good and how they experience such doctors.