Media Watch – September 2012

By Val Fulmer

If you find yourself relaxing with warm beverage in one hand but nothing to read in the other wishing for some “easy reads” pertaining to patient physician communication or the work of standardized patients,  here are a few recent articles that may pique your interest and fill a few quiet moments.

What Doctors Are Telling Us Even When They’re Not Talking – New York Times (2/9/12)

Training doctors in “cultural competency” can reduce the disparities of treatment courses and enhance the quality given to patients of different racial/ethnic backgrounds.  Research shows that nonverbal cues are as important as verbal ones, and body language/facial expressions can be more reflective of cultural biases between doctors and patients.  A greater emphasis on nonverbal communication can help medical educators address some of the social biases that affect patient care.

Afraid to Speak Up at the Doctor’s Office– New York Times (5/31/12)

Patients sometimes have a tendency to feel uncomfortable asking or disagreeing with doctors about their treatment options.  Previous optimistic assumptions about shared decision-making were based mostly on studies that examined physicians’ intent, but not patient perceptions.  A study found that even patients who are confident and assertive when asking questions or discussing issues with people in other settings seemed reluctant to speak up when talking with their doctors.

When Less Treatment is More – New York Times (3/29/12)

Sometimes more treatment does not mean better treatment. Though doctors have become increasingly concerned about the overuse of screening tests and treatments with little benefit and more risks, there are several reasons why more excessive treatment tends to be the usual course of action.

What Doctors and Patients Don’t Want to Talk About – New York Times (3/8/12)

Despite the medical profession’s embrace of honesty and openness, both doctors and patients remain resistant to full transparency — especially when it comes to discussions about costs and the need to allocate limited health care resources.  Dr. Robert D. Truog, Executive Director for the Institute for Professionalism and Ethical Practice, answers questions about transparency between patients and doctors, the challenges to this ideal, and the future of the patient-doctor relationship.

Teaching Doctors to be Mindful– New York Times (12/27/11)

The awareness of being mindful, or fully present and attentive to the moment, can help doctors find more meaning in their practice as well as combat physician burnout, loss of enthusiasm, increased errors, decreased empathy and poor professionalism.  The mindfulness and the self-awareness cultivated by Mindful Communication courses can be a fundamental ingredient of excellent care and patient satisfaction.

When Doctors Don’t Tell the Truth– New York Times (3/1/12)

Many doctors struggle with transparency and honesty when communicating with patients and their families about their condition and prognosis.  Well intentioned assumptions about how patients will react are often incorrect and this breakdown in communication makes patient-centered care much more difficult.  Patients need the truth to best make informed decisions.  The best approach may be to discuss preferences about communicating before difficult medical issues arise.

Before They Treat You, Medical Students Rehearse with Actors as Patients

-Johnson City (3/7/11)

The concept of using “standardized patients,” to teach medical students how to utilize interpersonal skills during examination and interview has proven to be a valuable tool for preparing future medical professionals to communicate effectively.  A student and standardized patient give their perspectives on the value of such teaching programs.

And last but not least, below is a link to an SP event at Grand Valley State University.   A local reporter was invited to join the event for the day as an SP in order to write about the program from a firsthand perspective. It was an interesting way to spot light SP’s and what they bring to health education.

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