- Linda Gask,
- Tim Usherwood
The success of any consultation depends on how well the patient and doctor communicate with each other. There is now firm evidence linking the quality of this communication to clinical outcomes.
The dual focus—Patients are not exclusively physically ill or exclusively emotionally distressed. Often they are both. At the start of a consultation it is usually not possible to distinguish between these states. It is the doctor's task to listen actively to the patient's story, seeking and noticing evidence for both physical illness and emotional distress.
Involving patients—Changes in society and health care in the past decade have resulted in real changes in what people expect from their doctors and in how doctors view patients. In addition, greater emphasis has been placed on the reduction of risk factors, with attempts to persuade people to take preventive action and avoid risks to health. Many patients want more information than they are given. They also want to take some part in deciding about their treatment in the light of its chances of success and any side effects. Some patients, of course, do not wish to participate in decision making; they would prefer their doctor to decide on a single course of action and to advise them accordingly. The skill lies in achieving the correct balance for each patient.
Three functions of the medical consultation
1 Build the relationship
Greet the patient warmly and by name
Detect and respond to emotional issues
2 Collect data
Do not interrupt patient
Elicit patient's explanatory model
Consider other factors
Develop shared understanding
3 Agree a management plan
Appropriate use of reassurance
Negotiate a management plan
Negotiate behaviour change
A comprehensive model—The “three function” model for the medical encounter provides a template for the parallel functions of the clinical interview. This is now widely …