Does how a doctor talk to his patients matter? Dr. David says absolutely.
In this edition of health matters he takes us to medical school to find out how students are learning the basic skills of patient communication.
Any good doctor would agree that the most powerful tool at their disposal is the ability to communicate effectively with their patients.
“Almost all of us have experienced some doctor visit where we left unsatisfied, where we didn't feel like we were heard, where we didn't even understand what the doctor was saying,” says Dr. Sara Tariq, Associate Professor of Medicine at UAMS.
Dr. Tariq, one of the most incredible physicians I've ever met, teaches Intro to Clinical Medicine here at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. Future doctors take her class beginning in their very first year of med school to learn the often subtle nuances of doctor-patient communication.
“How does the doctor talk to their patient? Do they shake hands with their patient? Do they call their patient by their first name or do they call them respectfully by their last name?”
Among the students being evaluated is my daughter Riley, who's watched on camera to make sure she's acquiring the clinical skills that will make her a better doctor and me the proudest father in America.”
“If we have that baseline of talking and listening and understanding, then you're leaps and bounds ahead of the rest of the pack," says medical student Riley Lipschitz.
This is literally hands on training with what are called standardized patients. Actors pretend to be sick, like Judy Garner, who has a splitting headache.
“We are given a script as a standardized patient and along with whatever that illness is. I feel like there's an emotional state along with whatever that illness would have,” says Judy.
“She's coming in here pretending to have a headache, but yet when I get in there and I start asking questions and she's holding her head and looks like she's in pain, my stress level starts rising,” Riley says.
What's taught in the clinical skills center is every bit as important as ordering tests and prescribing medications.
The secret in caring for the patient is caring for the patient.
In the past, students didn't interact with patients, real or fake, until late in their training. Let's hope all medical schools will adopt the same forward thinking as this one by letting the doctors of tomorrow begin understanding the patients of today as soon as possible.