The belief that doctors and patients can produce better health through conversation is the driving concept behind the narrative medicine movement. In this movement doctors are trained to “receive” a patient’s story about illness and the clues it may contain to get a more complete picture. One that is crucial to diagnosis and treatment.
Life, love, dreams, hopes, fears — all that gets bypassed in the rush to find out what’s wrong and fix it.
So how can you improve communications within your practice?
- Speak your patient’s language: Recognize that medical terms that are easily understandable to you may sound like ‘another language’ to your patients.
- Confirm what was heard: As in the study cited above, asking the patient to recap instructions in their own words greatly increases understanding.
- Take emotional impact into consideration: A Journal of Clinical Oncology study found that most people just diagnosed with cancer remembered less than half of what their doctor had told them. What’s even more interesting is that asking questions doesn’t necessarily mean understanding, since the study found those who asked the most questions at the time had poorer recall on what was said.
If doctors could be sensitised to the importance of dealing with the concerns of the lifeworld for patients with chronic physical conditions as well as psychological conditions, it might be possible to obtain better care for patients.
But what about clinicians. They are human too.
Clinicians who care for seriously ill patients face a high risk for diminished personal well-being, including burnout, moral distress, and compassion fatigue.
Doctors who enjoy good mental health and are engaged achieve better patient outcomes
The subject of doctors’ health and well-being is attracting growing interest around the world. There is an evolving body of research looking at the impact of poor doctor health on patient care and in parallel, evidence showing that those who enjoy good mental health and are ‘engaged’ achieve better patient outcomes.
This video truly reflects on my wish to patients as care providers to engage in meaningful conversations so we better understand and honor the needs, values, preferences and goals.