Authors: Kenrick Kai Chi Chan, and George Samoutis
Patient-centered medicine (PCM) involves looking at more than just a disease and how to treat it. This approach to medical practice has evolved from the realization that all patients are different physiologically, psychologically, emotionally, and socially. As such, it encompasses all of these domains in its application.
The mainstay of the patient-centred approach to medical practice is the promotion of a mutual relationship between patient and doctor, which involves creating a secure environment to allow for open dialogue. By learning to listen to patients and exploring other causes of disease other than physiological ones, doctors are able to provide a holistic approach to treatment. Patients are also actively encouraged to participate in the decision-making process by adding their ideas, concerns, and expectations. This negotiation allows for flexibility and individualization of each treatment plan that is tailored to suit each individual patient. In essence, PCM encourages concordance: the agreement between doctor and patient on how to proceed toward a common goal.
It is, therefore important to teach the medical students about PCM as early on in their medical education as possible. This will give them time to hone the skills in clinical communication so that they can better understand and explore their patient’s circumstances as well become aware of other domains that may require support. How can medical schools effectively teach their students PCM? We suggest the use of expert patients as a beneficial method for promoting PCM in medical school curricula as students have the opportunity to gain first-hand knowledge of what a patient with a specific disease actually feels, what impact it has on their lives and those around them, and what support they find lacking or useful.