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Better beside manners makes better doctors

September 14, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
In school, medical students learn how to make clinical decisions. But what many don't learn, is how to talk to patients about things other than their physical health. A new study shows that better bedside manner makes better doctors.Making a correct diagnosis sometimes involves more than just medical issues.

"There are many factors of a patient's life that affect their health care," said Dr. Olabunmi Augboola, of the University of Illinois. "We can definitely individualize the care in order to fit that patient."

In her last year of medical school, Dr. Augboola received unique training that helps her figure out the best way to treat her patients. It's called individualized care.

"Individualizing care means appreciating aspects of the patient's life, we call it their context" said Alan Schwartz, Ph.D., of the University of Illinois. "That may mean that they may have to be treated differently than other patients with the same disease."

In a report, provided by the Journal of the American Medical Association medical students were trained using actors.

Students learn to listen and probe for clues that will help them determine the most appropriate solution.

Researchers found doctors who received this type of training were able to correctly manage patients 66 percent of the time, compared to 25 percent in doctors who didn't receive this training.

"This study is important because failure to take into account individual patient context can lead to medical errors that are just as bad as providing the wrong dosage or the wrong drug," said Schwartz.

And one expert says ignoring a patient's emotional state could possibly lead to making a medical error.

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