How Picasso can help physicians and patients connect

By Aine Cryts

What do Henri Matisse's "Vase of Flowers" and Winslow Homer's "The Fog Warning" have in common with medical school education? Discussing these and other works of art at the Museum of Fine Art in Boston is helping to improve the communication skills of doctors in training at the city's Brigham and Women's Hospital, as reported by CBS News.

Here's how the program works: Senior colleagues at the hospital connect with junior staff members and Harvard Medical School students while interpreting various artworks housed at the museum. The goal of the program is to improve physicians' interpersonal skills through observing and describing the art on display, according to the article.

Because that experience encourages the exchange of ideas and acceptance of different perspectives, the hospital hopes that these skills will translate into more meaningful patient-physician relationships, according to the news outlet.

Two important ways for physicians to connect with patients, as previously reported by FiercePracticeManagement, include the following:

  • Ask questions about their daily lives and struggles. Asking questions about access to transportation for clinic appointments and patients' ability to pay for prescriptions can help provide context around their ability to adhere to treatment plans.
  • Bear witness to patients' experiences. Physicians are trained to fix their patients' ailments, but it can be frustrating when there are no easy fixes. Being more attentive when you ask patients how they're feeling and taking the time to perform small, caring gestures can improve the patient-physician relationship.

"When you survey patients, very few of them complain about the knowledge base of their doctor or the fact that their doctor doesn't know anatomy," Joel Katz, M.D, director of the internal medicine residency program at Harvard Medical School, told CBS News. "What they complain about is that their doctor is inefficient or ineffective in communicating. That's what patients feel and that's what we're trying to address with these programs."

To learn more:
- check out the CBS News report