Throughout our first year, we have been taught asking a patient how they would like to be addressed is an ESSENTIAL component to the beginning of a medical interview. For instance, a normal opening to an initial interview with a patient might be: Hi John Doe, my name is William Abbott, I'm a medical student and I've been asked to interview you, is it alright if I call you John, or would you prefer Mr. Doe?
Do patients really care whether you call them by their first name or their last name? The last time I remember anyone being upset with me for using their first name was when I was in grade 3 and I learned my teacher actually had a first name, so I couldn't help but use it. I would also think that a patient would correct me if they didn't like how I was addressing them. I really don't see much value in asking a patient how they would prefer to be addressed, not that it is too much work or anything, I just don't like doing pointless things. However, the faculty REPEATEDLY demands that we do ask patient's how they prefer to be addressed. It is even incorporated into both of our first year clinical exam evaluations. Hopefully one day I'll understand what value this brings to my clinical interview.
P.S. Next time you're in the hospital...ask to be addressed as Batman, at the very least you'll give your doctor/resident/med student a good laugh. Although, I probably wouldn't do that if the physicians suspect you may have a psychiatric illness.