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Art of communication in medicine
  1. Brian Yu Chien Sung,
  2. Bernard Man Yung Cheung
  1. Department of Medicine, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China
  1. Correspondence to Professor Bernard Man Yung Cheung, Department of Medicine, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China; mycheung{at}

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While the idea that effective communication is key to good patient care is not new, it has been rapidly integrated into the undergraduate medical curriculum only in recent years. At the University of Hong Kong, medical students are introduced in their first year to the art and science of medicine, which smoothly facilitates their transition from secondary students to aspiring doctors. It is now a common consensus that medicine is not just about the in vivo biochemical cascades in their glorious complexities but also has an artistic and humanistic dimension that unveils itself during patient–physician interactions.

Much has been published about the ‘art of medicine’. In many diverse studies published since the 1960s, effective communication between patients and doctors has been linked with reduction in medical errors, adherence to treatment plans and increased physician and patient satisfaction.1 It is clear that effective communication enables the building of a synchronous rapport, which in turn translates to better health outcomes. Despite the emphasised importance of effective communication during patient–physician interactions, previous studies have shown that doctors often neglect its essential components, such as a basic self-introduction.

There have been a number of articles in recent years in the Postgraduate Medical Journal related to effective communication. In the study of 353 patients surveyed after a consultation by Gillen et al,2 79% of doctors had introduced themselves clearly, and this was perceived positively by the majority (89.7%) of patients. In a student-led study of 76 patient–doctor interactions, doctors told patients their names 88% of the time and explained their role 68% of the time.3 These numbers meet expectations because in a previous study, over half of …

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  • Contributors The authors cowrote the manuscript and checked that no intentional or unintentional plagiarism has occurred in the present manuscript and that all original references have been cited.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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