Wednesday, May 29, 2013

UChicago Researchers Discover Eye Contact is Essential in Doctor-Patient Relationship

My comments on the article:  I'm very pleased that researchers have bothered to study communication in the medical field - though it may appear small, it also may involve tremendous consequences.  For example, a great number of patients do not regularly take their medications.  Eye contact may help patients obey their doctors' commands, reducing the severity of diseases and illnesses.  Not to mention, some of the elderly may have even more trouble following orders  - these patients may even forget that they had a prescription!  Hence, I hope that eye contact also helps the physician understand the patients' needs.  This way, he or she can develop a plan that would enable patients to remember to take their medications.  Considering the aging population, it is especially important that we train doctors to build upon their communication skills.  The one thing the article did not emphasize much was touch.  Should doctors gently touch their patients to communicate with them, or is this too awkward?  Maybe it is part of the process if they have to take their patients' blood pressures and heart beats.  But is there something else to this?  Feel free to comment.


Seeing Eye to Eye With Your Physician

From job interviews to first dates and conversations with our friends, we know how important eye contact is for making a positive impression. The same goes for doctor’s visits—making meaningful eye contact is a crucial skill for doctors to help show empathy and make patients feel that they understand and care about their needs.
Positive feelings are one thing. But does eye contact make any difference in clinical outcomes for patients?
Rita Gorawara-Bhat, PhD, senior staff scientist in the Section of Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine, researches the ways both verbal and nonverbal communication between physicians and elderly patients can affect care. In a new study, she and her colleagues watched hundreds of hours of videotapes of doctors interacting with patients and found that eye contact, especially when it’s matched with meaningful verbal communication, does indeed help patients understand what the doctor is telling them and helps them stick to their treatment plans.
Gorawara-Bhat said that nonverbal communication, such as eye contact and touch, is especially important  when treating elderly patients.
Rita Gorawara-Bhat, PhD
Rita Gorawara-Bhat, PhD
“There are many difficulties that physicians have in communicating with older patients because of their frailty, hearing and vision difficulties, alongside all the comorbidities that an older patient may come along with at that age,” she said.


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