Reading Deeper Than the Medical Charts

If we can’t measure it, it doesn’t exist? In medicine, sometimes what you can’t measure matters most of all.

Not much data in an opinion piece in Stat by Zachary G. Jacobs, MD, a hospitalist in Portland, Ore., but that’s the point. Jacobs eloquently dispatches from the frontlines the soul-feeding importance of doctors getting to know a patient’s story.

“And sometimes the stories are heartbreaking, like discussing trade secrets of smoked pork ribs with a 35-year-old woman who was just denied a lifesaving organ transplant, her eyes full of tears as she argues the merits of a vinegar-based barbecue sauce she will likely never make again,” Jacobs writes.

Though short on data, Jacobs does have a very down-to-earth point to make. The number of humanities programs in medical education has increased dramatically in the last two decades, but they remain “fragmented and unstandardized.” Humanities must become a universal component of medical curricula, Jacobs argues.

“Doctors need to learn the human side of health care,” Jacobs writes. “They need to be taught how to relate to their patients on a personal level. And there is no better way to connect meaningfully with patients than to listen to their stories and to fully receive them.”

We’ll second that!