Doctors Talking with Patients/Patients Talking with Doctors: Improving Communication in Medical Visits

By Debra L. Roter; Judith A. Hall | Go to book overview

10
Toward a Healthier Medical Visit

Discussion between doctors and patients has long been regarded as the way in which much of the curing and caring of medicine is conveyed. Sometimes regarded as the art or heart of medicine, its importance is well noted in antiquity and recognized in modern times. However, only since the mid-1960s have the actual dynamics of the therapeutic dialogue been observed in any systematic manner, bringing the opportunity to recast this aspect of medicine as science rather than as art, intuition, or anecdote. These studies tell us about what happens between doctors and patients, and about the significance of these events for attitudes, feelings, and for health itself. The interpersonal aspects of medical care are now known to be as much, or sometimes even more, an "active ingredient" as are the pills and other treatments given to patients.

If we were challenged to summarize the key messages of our book we would outline three. First, we believe that the therapeutic potential of medicine can be enhanced--diagnosis made more accurate, treatment more effective, recovery faster and less painful, and quality of life more fully realized. And, the vehicle by which this will be accomplished is the doctor- patient relationship.

Second, we believe that both doctors and patients can change the nature of their relationship and its interaction through modest interventions with far- reaching consequences. This is not to say that the determinants of behavior are simple. We have reviewed a great deal of research attesting to the complex effects of previous experience and culture on behavior; however, we are confident in our conclusion that the doctor-patient relationship is remarkably sensitive to efforts at change.

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