The total package: A skillful, compassionate doctor

January 22, 2009

Patients and their families want physicians who are gifted in diagnosis and treatment and who are caring individuals with the interpersonal skills needed to communicate complex information in stressful circumstances.

A new study in the January 2009 issue of Academic Medicine shows training physicians to be humanistic is feasible and produces measurably better communicators.

"Humanism in medicine isn't about sitting and singing Kumbaya, it is about taking the individual patient's concerns and values into account in his or her treatment," said study co-author Richard Frankel, Ph.D. "Those values are clearly linked to higher quality of care and reduction of medical errors yielding safety improvement." Dr. Frankel is a professor of medicine at the Indiana University School of Medicine and a Regenstrief Institute research scientist.

The study was conducted at five very different medical schools - Emory University School of Medicine, Indiana University School of Medicine, the University of Rochester School of Medicine, Baylor College of Medicine and the University of Minnesota Medical School - rather than only one institution. The authors believe their findings are generalizeable throughout American medical education.

The 2001 Institute of Medicine report, "Crossing the Quality Chasm: A New Health System for the 21st Century," highlighted the benefits of patient-centered humane care that is respectful of and responsive to patients' needs, values and concerns.

The concept of humanism in medicine and patient-centered care predates the 21st century. In the 1920's Francis Peabody, M.D., wrote that "the secret of care of the patient is caring for the patient" a humanistic concept that in the intervening years has become overshadowed by a preoccupation with technological advances in medicine, the same technology that resulted in the development of antibiotics and thousands of other life-saving drugs, sophisticated scanning devices and untold number of vital therapies.

"Traditionally medical school curricula have focused on the pathophysiology of disease while neglecting the very real impact of disease on the patient's social and psychological experience, that is, their illness experience. It is in this intersection that humanism plays a profound role," said Dr. Frankel, who is a medical sociologist.

"As educators, we aim to foster the development of future physicians who are competent both technically and interpersonally. Patients, their families, and the public expect no less of us. This study suggests there are various faculty development processes that will allow us all to pursue these aims more effectively," said study co-author Thomas Inui, M.D., I.U. School of Medicine associate dean for health care research and Sam Regenstrief Professor of Health Services Research. Dr. Inui also is president and CEO of the Regenstrief Institute.

Source: Indiana University

Explore further: ER health promotion advocates help teens struggling with substance use get treatment

Related Stories

Study links cannabis use in adolescence to schizophrenia

April 26, 2017

Scientists believe that schizophrenia, a disorder caused by an imbalance in the brain's chemical reactions, is triggered by a genetic interaction with environmental factors. A new Tel Aviv University study published in Human ...

Doctors turn scope on rare diseases

April 26, 2017

Lynn Whittaker stood in the hallway of her home looking at the framed photos on the wall. In one, her son, Andrew, is playing high school water polo. In another, he's holding a trombone.

Newly prescribed sleeping pills increase risk of hip fracture

April 26, 2017

Older people newly prescribed sleeping pills like benzodiazepines and "Z-drugs' have over double the odds of a hip fracture in the first two weeks compared with non-users, according to a new study by researchers at Cardiff ...

Recommended for you

'Diet' products can make you fat, study shows

April 25, 2017

High-fat foods are often the primary target when fighting obesity, but sugar-laden "diet" foods could be contributing to unwanted weight gain as well, according to a new study from the University of Georgia.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.