There are few that would dismiss the value of great doctor-patient communication. Effective communication is central in building an authentic therapeutic relationship, long recognised as the heart and art of medicine.
It should be no surprise then, that patient experience, particularly the 'level of communication and trust' between a patient and their doctor is predictive of patient outcomes. One study published in the BMJ, for example, showed that simply asking patients whether their doctor listens to them, and if they trust their doctor, was a consistent, reliable way of detecting the clinicians who are likely to give great care, from those who merely achieve average outcomes.
Having worked within the medical communications industry for a number of years, it's interesting to note that this crucial interaction is sometimes overlooked.
And it's not through lack of opportunity. More and more, pharmaceutical companies are offering patient support programmes (PSPs) as a way of providing additional value to the healthcare and patient community that use their treatments and interventions. This study and others like it show that, as medical communication professionals we need to recognise these important opportunities to add value.
We have an obligation to think much harder about the barriers to great doctor-patient communication, and crucially, what can be done to overcome them.
The aspect of experience most strongly associated with a better outcome was the level of communication with and trust in their doctor.