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Commentary |

The Silent Dimension Expressing Humanism in Each Medical Encounter

Ami Schattner, MD
Arch Intern Med. 2009;169(12):1095-1099. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2009.103.
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Humanistic behavior is considered an essential component of professional medical care. However, the evidence shows that it is often neglected. Many barriers to the expression of sensitivity to the patient's concerns and empathy and compassion in the clinical encounter can be identified. Time constraints, poor continuity of care, appearance of alienating factors between patients and physicians, and the “hidden curriculum” are just a few in a long list. To overcome them, personal adoption of the CAPTURES* mnemonic technique is suggested. It includes Curiosity about the patient's personal aspects, finding something to Admire, trying to see things from the patient's Perspective, Touching and Using body language to convey caring, Reacting to the patient, and Stressing any positive or encouraging aspects to provide Support, reassurance, and hope. Four brief case examples are presented herein to demonstrate that a warm, interested, and supportive attitude toward patients can be regularly adopted with ease in every setting. Personal inclusion of the humanistic aspect in each patient-physician encounter accompanied by several of the institutional educational changes indicated may significantly alter the current scene despite obvious limitations. Marked benefits for both physicians and patients can be expected, including improvements in patients' satisfaction, trust, and compliance, leading to significantly better “hard” health outcomes. Thus, sincere humanistic behavior can become an integral part of the encounter, correcting current deficiencies and catching up with the astounding advances of modern biomedicine.

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Figure 1.

The many factors adversely affecting expressions of humanism in patient physician relationships. CAM indicates complementary and alternative medicine; HMO, health maintenance organization.

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Figure 2.

Personal attitudes and techniques to enhance a sincere humanistic component in the encounter (mnemonic: “CAPTURES*”).

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Figure 3.

Institutional interventions suggested to improve the humanistic aspects of patient care by focused educational effort (mnemonic: “SIC” [Latin: “thus”], to read: “SIC CAPTURES*” HUMANISM). CME indicates continuing medical education.

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The American Medical Association is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to provide continuing medical education for physicians. The AMA designates this journal-based CME activity for a maximum of 1 AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM per course. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity. Physicians who complete the CME course and score at least 80% correct on the quiz are eligible for AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM.
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