Patient involvement and satisfaction improved with a simple notepad

Dear DoctorThis post is part of our series of Research Roundups — a list of recently published studies on humanism in medicine. If you would like to be notified each time a Research Roundup is published, send an email to with the subject line “Subscribe RR”.

Dear Doctor: a tool to facilitate patient-centered communication
Farberg AS, Lin AM, Kuhn L, Flanders SA, Kim CS.   J Hosp Med. 2013 Oct;8(10):553-8.
Hospitalized patients were given a “Dear Doctor” notepad and instructions on its use. 65% of these patients reported that they took notes related to their hospital stay compared to 22% of patients who did not receive the notepad. All patients who used the notepads responded that communication with their physicians was enhanced to some degree, but overall rating of communication did not differ between intervention and control groups.

In search of compassion: a new taxonomy of compassionate physician behaviours
Cameron RA, Mazer BL, Deluca JM, Mohile SG, Epstein RM.   Health Expect. 2013 Dec 4.
Researchers used qualitative analysis to examine statements expressed by physicians to their cancer patients. They organized expressions of compassion into a preliminary taxonomy that could be applied to future studies of physician communication.

“I Will Never Let That Be OK Again”: Student Reflections on Competent Spiritual Care for Dying Patients
Kuczewski MG, McCarthy MP, Michelfelder A, Anderson EE, Wasson K, Hatchett L.   Acad Med. 2013 Nov 25

Researchers analyzed written student reflections on the spiritual care of a patient who had died. Several themes emerged: being aware of their own desensitization to the human dimension of care; wishing to learn to contain their emotions; and identifying systemic fragmentation of patient care as a barrier to meeting patient needs and as a facilitator of desensitization.

Burnout in inpatient-based versus outpatient-based physicians: a systematic review and meta-analysis
Roberts DL, Cannon KJ, Wellik KE, Wu Q, Budavari AI.   J Hosp Med. 2013 Nov;8(11):653-64.
Researchers performed a systematic review of the literature on burnout in inpatient-based and outpatient-based physicians worldwide. A statistical analysis found that outpatient physicians reported more emotional exhaustion than inpatient physicians. No statistically significant differences in depersonalization or personal accomplishment were found.

A multicenter study of physician mindfulness and health care quality
Beach MC, Roter D, Korthuis PT, Epstein RM, Sharp V, Ratanawongsa N, Cohn J, Eggly S, Sankar A, Moore RD, Saha S.   Ann Fam Med. 2013 Sep-Oct;11(5):421-8.
In a study of 45 clinicians, researchers found that patient visits with high-mindfulness clinicians were more likely to be characterized by a patient-centered pattern of communication than visits with low-mindfulness clinicians. Visits with high-mindfulness clinicians were also more likely to contain discussion of psychosocial issues.

The impact of health literacy on desire for participation in healthcare, medical visit communication, and patient reported outcomes among patients with hypertension
Aboumatar HJ, Carson KA, Beach MC, Roter DL, Cooper LA.    J Gen Intern Med. 2013 Nov;28(11):1469-76.
In a randomized controlled trial,  physicians and patients received either a minimal or intensive communication skills training. Patients with low and adequate health literacy were similarly interested in participating in medical decision making, however, low literacy patients were less likely to experience it in their visits.

Gold Foundation Publications

The professional oath: pledge of allegiance or reflective practice?
Gaufberg E, Batalden M.   Med Educ. 2014 Jan;48(1):9-11.

In taking an oath, an initiate solemnly commits to do and not to do certain things. Yet as much as the professional oath is about the promises an individual makes to those he or she will serve, it is about loyalty to a profession.   How often over the years do we reflect on our practice in the context of these promises?

Three winning essays from the 2013 humanism in medicine essay contest, appearing in Academic Medicine:

Brandy King

This post was written by Brandy King, Head of Information Services at The Arnold P. Gold Foundation Research Institute