Maryland is putting new energy into expanding patient-centered medical homes. ' Described as sort of like 'having your doctors' office act like your mom,' this model of coordinated care focuses on the whole person, not just acute medical issues, reports the Washington Post.' While more labor intensive for doctors and staff because it includes tasks many practices may not typically engage in, such as phone calls or emails in addition to the traditional office visit, this kind of communication is welcomed by patients like Bernadette Rappold.' Bernadette, a diabetes patient, describes receiving an email from her doctor's office offering a weight-loss program as 'nonjudgmental' and in the spirit that 'they're really trying to promote your health.'
Bernadette's experience is echoed in a recent study which found that the patient-physician relationship, including contact outside of normal office hours, affects how engaged patients are in their own health care. ' In addition to doctors' increased availability, patients who felt their physicians communicated well and treated them with respect tended to engage in more healthy behaviors, such as getting regular exercise. "The patient takes a cue from what the doctor does. ' If the doctor conveys an all-knowing 'I make the decisions' attitude, the patient will revert to a passive role," commented study author Jeffrey Alexander.
Stephen Wilkins, in his blog The Fastest Way To Disempower, De-Activate, and Disengage Any Patient, reiterates the demoralizing effect a physician with poor bedside manner can have on a patient. Stephen writes, 'Physician behavior, specifically the way they think about, relate to and talk to patients needs to change'before long term, sustainable change in patient behavior is possible.'
The take-home message, as Jessie Gruman says, is that it takes two to tango, and both patients and physicians must approach their relationship differently for the best outcomes.' Speaking for patients Jessie adds, 'We will only change the way we communicate because we see value in doing it and because we see risk of harm in not doing it.' We will change because we respect what each other knows and needs in order to do his or her best.' And we will change because we realize that only by communicating as partners can we reach the goal we share'my improved health.'
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