Intended for healthcare professionals

Practice A Patient’s Journey

Lessons from patients’ journeys

BMJ 2013; 346 doi: (Published 03 April 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f1988
  1. Peter Lapsley, patient editor, BMJ
  1. 1BMA House, London WC1H 9JP, UK
  1. plapsley{at}

Peter Lapsley, patient editor at the BMJ, reflects on the lessons that have emerged from the first 100 articles in the Patient’s Journey series

Over the past seven or eight years, I have been helping patients to get their stories published, obtaining doctors’ perspectives on them, and, with colleagues, developing the guidelines for drafting patients’ journeys, hoping that these might increase the usefulness of such articles to doctors (box).

Our guidance to authors of patients’ journeys

To some extent, our published guidance to authors of patients’ journeys dictates the sort of articles we get. The following list is not exhaustive, but our advice suggests that the articles should demonstrate one or more of the following lessons.

  • Some doctors take too long to arrive at a correct diagnosis. By reading about patients’ journeys, other doctors might diagnose the condition sooner, which would benefit their patients

  • Some aspects of conditions and diseases are very important to patients but doctors may be unaware of these aspects

  • Evidence based interventions may exist that could have profound effects on patients’ lives and of which doctors should be more aware

We have seen these lessons repeated in so many patients’ journeys.

We are always open to suggestions for improving our series

I describe here some of the wide range of lessons that have emerged from the patients’ journeys that we have published.

Certainty and uncertainty

We have repeatedly learnt that although doctors are comfortable with uncertainty, patients are far less so. They want prompt and accurate diagnoses, taking the view that a condition cannot be treated effectively if the doctor doesn’t know what it is. And they need a label to explain their conditions to family and friends. Of the numerous examples of this, one of the more recent was an account of trachea-oesophageal atresia.1

Although medicine is a constantly evolving discipline, many patients …

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