The Ineffective Conversation

In a recent medical journal article, “The Secret of the Care of the Patient Is in Knowing and Applying the Evidence about Effective Clinical Communication,” RM Frankel and HB Sherman argue that the lack of comprehensive communication between doctors and patients lead to ineffective overall patient care. The authors use data collected from the Institute of Medicine, multiple case studies and various types of research on modern patient care and the dynamics between a physician and patient during routine appointments. Frankel and Sherman report that IOM estimated “between 44,000 and 98,000 lives are lost in hospitals every year due to preventable errors, 80% of which could be traced back to breakdowns in communication.” Based on these findings, Frankel and Herman encourage the revision of patient-care for current doctors and to educate new doctors, as well as their patients to prevent any future loss or consequences resulting from insufficient communication.

Throughout the article, Frankel and Sherman emphasize the term “patient-centered,” which was coined in 1986 by Howard Levenstein, a South African physician, who believed that in order to efficiently treat a patient, doctors must consider some psychological and social aspects. Frankel and Sherman use case studies to convey the ineffectiveness and efficacy of clinical communication skills that are used in practice. The authors provide different ways doctors can improve their patient care habits by considering the guidelines of the Biopsychosocial model, which is an approach often used in modern medicine that examines the biological, psychological and social factors of the patient.

Frankel and Sherman compare and contrast past and present treatments of patients when there were no cures for diseases, physicians were able to provide compassion and empathy as a source of medicine, which they believe is the key to improving patients’ health care. The authors believe that the old tradition of compassion as medicine has proven to be successful over the years, however, often this method is viewed outdated or time consuming for clinical practice. Frankel and Sherman state that “communication, by its nature, is inherently relational,” and that meticulous communication is imperative to efficiently care for patients and to establish trust between physicians and their patients.

Frankel, RM, and HB Sherman. “The Secret of the Care of the Patient Is in Knowing and Applying the Evidence About Effective Clinical Communication.” Oral Diseases (2015), Vol. 21: 919-926. John Wiley & Sons Ltd., 2014.

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