Although occasionally it might be useful for physicians to answers inquiries from patients about their personal life or to comment on a specific topic raised by a patient, such discussions generally should be very short and clearly tie into a patients concerns, the authors of the article concluded.
Those involved in the investigation said the findings have affected how they conduct their practice. McDaniel, for example, now takes breaks between patient visits to discuss the days news or vent about problems, eliminating those kinds of self-disclosures from patient sessions. Beckman, who is medical director of the Rochester Individual Practice Association, has stopped telling his elderly patients about his mother, who was very active and healthy through her 80s.
I would tell people their expectations could be higher and use my mother as an example, Beckman said. In subsequent visits, they asked about my mother. That was great until her health began to decline then I had to tell them she was not well. That frightened them. If I couldnt help my own mother, how could I help them" My disclosure did not work as well as I had hoped.
Patients want their needs met. Doctors want to meet the needs of their patients and they want to have human contact, said McDaniel, who is director of the Wynne Center for Family Research at the University of Rochester Medical Center. But self-disclosure ultimately is misguided. Patient visits should be focused on the patient. They are not about me.
While a physicians self-disclosures usually develop from positive intentions, the investigators said that empathy, understanding and compassion toward the patient are more reliable and helpful for the patient.
If I tell my patients about my problems or how I feel, they are taking care of me, Beckman said. Is taking care of me the only way to deepen the relationship" Th
Contact: Michael Wentzel
University of Rochester Medical Center