JointHealth™ express   November 17, 2016

ACR News: A more human(ities) approach to arthritis healthcare

The humanities come in many forms – literature, music, art, drama – and provide us perspective on what it means to be human. They can also provide benefits for patients and their healthcare professionals, said American College of Rheumatology (ACR) annual meeting keynote speaker, Dr. Paulette Hahn, Associate Professor of Medicine and Associate Vice Chair of Education in the Department of Medicine at the University of Florida.

“There are four words that actually help me think about the humanities on a day-to-day basis, and that would have to be: contemplative, curious, collaborative, and creative, and I think the first three actually help us be creative together,” said Dr. Hahn.

Dr. Hahn discussed how everyone involved in a patient’s healthcare team should strive for these qualities. She proposed that instead of focusing on the patient or the disease, put health and well-being at the centre and bring the patient to the table along with the entire team of physicians, nurses, therapists, pharmacists, family, and friends so that they all reason and make decisions together.

In some ways, rheumatology is particularly positioned among medical fields to incorporate perspectives from the humanities, Dr. Hahn said. Rheumatologists and rheumatology health professionals treat systemic diseases, not just inflamed joints. They want to move their patients’ well-being forward, and they tend to be inquisitive.

Telling a story is a fundamental part of the humanities, and Dr. Hahn discussed how she and other health professionals use narrative medicines to care for and understand their patients and grow as doctors. One example is the Arnold P. gold Humanism Society’s “Tell me More” project, which helps healthcare providers start a conversation with their patients about who they are and what is important to them.

Several attendees at the ACR annual meeting shared ideas about how to use the humanities to improve care, such as receptionists could select poems they like and post them in the waiting room. One physician said he makes himself stop talking so patients have the chance to speak and asks patients what their most recent stressor is. Dr. Hahn said she often gives patients pieces of paper, and through reading the words they write, she has realized it is not the disease that worries them, but other sources of stress their disease makes worse and more challenging.

Are you thinking about ways to better communicate your story to your healthcare professional? Arthritis Consumer Experts (ACE) has launched a new program called JointHealth™ Education, where you can take courses and study lessons on the art of communicating with your physician and talking about your treatment goals. To visit JointHealth™ Education, please click here: