HOW T0 RESPOND EFFECTIVELY
TO PATIENTS’ CUES
45 – 60 MINUTE CME SESSION
Refer to paper by Suchman et al in JMA 26th Feb 1997 (vol 227, No 8, 678 – 682)
A model of empathic Communication in the Medical Interview
NB The authors included Beckman and Frankel, of doctor interrupting after 18 seconds fame (now 24 seconds).
Key findings and conclusion:
The researchers found that patients seldom verbalise their emotions directly and spontaneously, but tend to offer cues instead.
If invited to elaborate , patients may then express the emotional concern directly, and the physician may respond with an accurate and explicit acknowledgement.
However, in most of the consultations, the physicians allowed both cues and direct expressions of affect to pass without acknowledgement, returning instead to the preceding topic, usually the direct exploration of symptoms.
With emotional expressions so terminated, some patients attempted to raise the topic again, sometimes repeatedly and with escalating intensity.
Conclusion: We need to be able to recognise when emotions may be present but not directly expressed, invite exploration of these unexpressed feelings and effectively acknowledge these feelings so that the patient feels understood. The frequent lack of acknowledgement by doctors of both direct and indirect expressions of affect poses a threat to the doctor-patient relationship.
This JAMA paper reflects the findings of Tuckett et al (1985) Meetings between Experts: An approach to sharing ideas in the medical consultation.
Patients are keen to disclose their own thoughts and feelings:
26% of patients spontaneously offered an explanation of their symptoms to the doctor.
But in these consultations,
Only 7% of doctors actively encouraged their patients to elaborate,
13% listened passively
81% made no attempt to listen, or deliberately interrupted.
Half of patients’ views were expressed covertly rather than overtly, with overt cues being picked up more readily than covert cues.
Move on to how to pick up and respond to verbal and non – verbal cues.
Show prepared slides of box 3.3, 3.4, 3.5 from Skills for Communicating with patients (make it interactive by asking for offers).
Move on to act out some scenarios, using prepared scripts.
First, let’s remind ourselves of how an initial open style of questioning can enable us and the patient to get so much more out of the consultation:
Give script to volunteer (as on page 46).
Show overhead of advantages of open questions.
Now move on to script of facilitative response.
Give scripts for scenarios as on pages 51 – 53
Now let’s return to the JAMA paper:
Show overhead of their table 1, definition of terms: empathic opportunity etc.
(copies available to handout)
So lets try out a few of the scenarios, and see if we can label what’s happening:
Give out scripts to volunteer.
At end – ask for questions, feedback.
Signpost next session.
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