Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

A scholar's life

As if I haven't baltied enough already, tomorrow I'm going to Balti more. Specifically, the Academy Health Annual Research Meeting, Academy Health being the health services research association. I'll be presenting my super duper innovative methods for breaking down and reproducibly characterizing clinical communication.

I won't bore y'all with the details, but the major idea is that you can identify specific kinds of tasks -- such as collecting information to make a diagnosis or otherwise put a name on a problem, educating a patient, making a treatment decision, or providing emotional support and building rapport -- specific subject matter of importance, such as symptoms, pharmaceutical treatment, diagnosis, health-related behaviors, psycho-social problems -- and specific speech transactions (illocutions or speech acts) such as various forms of questioning, giving concrete information, expressing feelings or desires, giving instructions, and so on. If you break down a transcript on all three dimensions, you can say a whole lot about what happened in a visit and what the relationship between the people was like.

There's no Nobel Prize for this, and it won't make the New York Times either, but if you think about it, talking with patients is 90% of medicine. It doesn't matter what the pills do if you don't take them. Whether I can really do any good with all this remains to be seen, but I'm hopeful.

1 comment:

kathy a. said...

a doctor friend grumbles that actually, 40% of time goes to wrangling electronic medical records -- maybe at the expense of that important patient contact.

but in other news from the outside world, i joined a support group for families dealing with FTD. one catetaker has been asked to talk with medical folks about effective communication, particularly with the caregivers who are "on the ground." interested to see how that goes.

i think your work sounds really important. good communication has a lot to do with all kinds of groovy things, from diagnosis to patient compliance with treatment. (and from a caregiving perspective, grappling with a disease process is hard enough without being cut off from those who might explain what's going on, offer options, etc.)