A big family weekend recently meant lots of weekend papers, so I picked up this article in the Sunday Times Style which was particularly interesting: Dr Feel Good (Francesca Hornak) explores the idea of bedside manner.
Quoting a number of recent reports about the increasing concerns of GP communication skills she questions whether this is part of the "me first culture". But the evidence presented shows the power of empathy: a study previously mentioned on this blog and others. Quickly, she gets to the crux: empathy and good communication skills can help the patient disclose all the information, which is so important in making a diagnosis. A damming comment from a psychologist follows "medical school doesn't equip science graduates to be emotionally literate."
The teaching is also biased - they are "taught that the majority of physical symptoms have a genetic or biological cause, rather than a psychosocial cause."
Further through the article the topic of alternative medicine is brought up. The efficacy of the treatment is "immaterial if felling listened to and worthy of attention week after week lowers your stress levels to the point that symptoms decrease." I can identify with that - a year or two ago I saw an alternative therapist because I just wanted someone to listen to me - not because I thought the treatment t would work or anything like that! I have now realised that counsellors can do the same thing for a lot less money, but such was my desperation to be listened to and comforted that I deserted my logical and clinical mind and turned (temporally) to the 'dark side'!!! This was reflect again the article: "the alternative sectors emphasis on listening, respect, compassion and treating the patient as a whole person with a complex history (rather than as a single presenting symptom) is precisely what most of us cite as lacking at our local surgeries."
In the whole it was a good balanced article with a doctor contributing to a box which subtly outlined the patients responsibilities in the context of primary care - an important and often forgotten aspect of this debate!!!