Patients come to a doctor with a story of their illness and it is important that they allow that story to be told. Listening with the patient and building on the story together allows the doctor a greater understanding of the illness. Technology can then be used to confirm an initial idea. Traditional ‘case history’ stifles the patient’s narrative and ability to tell their own story and will not elicit as much information as if the patient can talk freely.
Patients whose doctors express empathy and employ active listening techniques are more likely to return for further appointments and to finish their treatment successfully. However, a demanding work environment, little importance being placed on empathy and insufficient training and education, mean that doctors have been keeping patients at a distance.
By providing healthcare professionals with the time and tools they need to allow patients to express their story, the outcomes of diagnosis and treatment are much better. The focus needs to shift from seeing and diagnosing patients quickly, to joining a patient on their journey.