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Doctors who share personal information disrupt doctor-patient relationship
Doctors who share personal information disrupt doctor-patient relationship

June 26, 2007 (Insidermedicine) Doctors who share personal information about themselves with their patients can actually harm the doctor-patient relationship, according to a report published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Effective doctor-patient communication appears to improve patients’ health, but little is known about the best way of creating healing relationships. While it would seem that doctors who share personal information and experiences would build trust, recent evidence has called this into question.

To investigate the value of having a doctor disclose personal information to a patient, researchers recruited 100 family doctors who agreed to have actors portraying new patients visit their offices unannounced. The researchers analyzed transcripts of 113 visits, and rated the usefulness of the doctor sharing personal information or experiences.

They found that the personal information a doctor shared was related to what the patient was interested in discussing 60% of the time, and the rest of the time it was unrelated. Only 21% of the encounters returned to the topic the patient was discussing before the interruption.

In all, only 4% of the interruptions were assessed as useful in providing education, support, explanation, or acknowledgement. Eleven per cent of the conversations were considered disruptive, or detracting in some way from the doctor-patient relationship. These included instances when the doctor talked about himself or herself for an extended period of time, inadvertently competed with the patient, requested the patient’s support or expressed personal or political viewpoints that did not take the patient’s perspective into account.

Based on these findings, family doctors may want to reconsider sharing personal information, and instead use empathy and other methods of support to help build trusting relationships.

Reporting for Insidermedicine, I’m Dr. Susan Sharma.