Thursday Review: “Medical Humanities: Some Uses and Problems”

It’s been said that according to TV, there are only two interesting professions: law enforcement and medicine. Police dramas, mysteries, procedurals, and courtroom shows are nearly limitless. On the other hand, medical shows ranging from melodrama to comedy to documentary are easy to come by. The commercial success and wide range of even fictional stories about medicine points to an important discussion about the intersection of patient care and the humanities.
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Story-in-Place, April 11, 2020

Story-in-Place is a workshop to give healthcare providers a forum tell their stories during the COVID-19 crisis. The session will be online on April 11, 2020 at 2pm Pacific. Registration is free.

We’re living through a crisis and a profound shared experience. Healthcare providers and related fields are on the front lines. One of the ways that our connected world is dealing with the COVID-19 emergency is by seeking out, telling, and sharing stories.

If you’re a healthcare provider or work in a healthcare-adjacent profession, please join us. Maybe you want a space to share your story, or maybe you want a way to help process what’s going on.

In this workshop, we’ll briefly go over some fundamental elements of storytelling. Everyone will have a chance to reflect on their own stories and experiences from recent weeks. Those who would like to are invited to work through their own narratives with support from the other participants.

Thursday Review: “Soliciting the Patient’s Agenda: Have We Improved?”

What would a consultation look like if a patient were able to voice all of their concerns? Asked in a different way, how can we quantitatively demonstrate the benefits of a consultation where a patient is allowed to simply speak freely?

Writing in The Journal of the American Medical Association, Dr. M. Kim Marvel et al. give some rich detail and answers. They use a slightly different approach to “agenda” than Barry et al. did in their work on unexpressed patient agenda items. This paper, though, comes to the same general conclusion: that being intentional about hearing all that a patient has to say makes healthcare more effective, not less.

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Thursday Review: “Teaching communication skills to clinical students”

In a section of the BMJ under the header How To Do It, Ian Christopher McManus, Charles A. Vincent, S. Thom, and Jane Kidd offer practical advice from their experiences teaching communications to students at St. Mary’s Hospital Medical School.

I’m certainly not running a medical school, but there are still some interesting, practical ideas to be gleaned from the authors’ experiences.
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Thursday Review: “What Is Value in Health Care?”

I read Dr. Michael E. Porter’s article in The New England Journal of Medicine a number of years ago. At the time, I was interested in concrete ways to talk about value and effectiveness in healthcare. Rereading it now, it strikes me that Porter provides a framework not only for those ideas, but also a template for having difficult conversations with patients.

The big idea in the paper is that value boils down to a simple equation:

Value = Outcomes / Costs

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Are we sure about the “Humanities” in “Medical Humanities”?

In an article published late last year on the Washington Post’s website, Cathy N. Davidson reported on several studies run by Google’s HR department.

The findings were striking: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (“STEM”) ability wasn’t the most important quality in their top employees. It wasn’t even in the top five.
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