Time to recognise the healing power of the doctor-patient relationship

The growing evidence around the therapeutic value of the GP consultation needs to be recognised by managers, politicians, and other healthcare professionals, according to a leading GP academic.

Professor Frede Olesen
Professor Frede Olesen

Professor Frede Olesen, of Aarhus University in Denmark, told the RCGP annual conference in Glasgow that it was time for a renaissance in personal doctoring: ‘This is part of the real value of general practice in modern times.’

He said research on brain scans suggested that the meeting of a patient with their trusted doctor could affect the way that a patient responded to illness, outside of specific treatments.

Professor Olesen said the question for GPs was how they could influence that filter in the brain which governed the patient’s response.

The GP relationship is a 'strong drug'

‘This is not only lip service or the art of medicine, this is hardcore medicine about processes in the brain. The doctor-patient relationship is in itself a strong drug.'

He said many modern drugs were reinventions of ancient ways of influencing the brain, and human beings were also highly influenced by rituals.

‘It is time to create a renaissance for the personal doctor in clinical practice - how it works and how we can refine and develop it over time.’

Professor Olesen said the value of the personal doctor also needed to be recognised by the wider medical community, as well as administrators and politicians.

Society must recognise value of personal doctor

‘Society at large and decision makers should not forget this value. Sometimes they rely too much on technology and forget the value of the meeting between doctor and patient.

‘Universities really must reinvent the research and teaching in the value of the trusted context and the personal doctor. And if we do that we will not hear the stories about medical schools talking negatively about general practice.’

Professor Olesen said GPs should also remember to allow time when planning their daily schedules, appointments and home visits, for building relationships with patients.

He gave his definition of a good doctor as one who listens, asks questions, talks and investigates, and sometimes follows up with different laboratory and technical investigations.

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