The traditional medical consultation comprises history, examination, and investigations, followed by explanation to the patient of diagnosis and management. In the course of studying a series of tape-recorded consultations in a specialist medical clinic for chronic fatigue, we have observed a different structure. In some consultations, those categorized as more ‘patient-centred’, doctors introduced explanation and education into the early history-taking stage. This strategy is contrasted with the traditional approach, where the doctor only elicits information during the history, and gives an explanation later. The ‘early feedback’ strategy may result in patients with chronic illnesses achieving greater understanding of their symptoms. We discuss the implication of these findings for medical training.
Hak T, Campion P