The world of independent medical education (IME) is a continuously evolving space, adapting to meet the changing needs of physicians. One of the biggest changes in recent years is the incorporation of patients into educational events, either through inclusion of a patient or patient advocate on the faculty panel, or incorporation of patient videos, quotes, or testimonials. The movement to incorporate the patient’s voice in IME activities is driven by the need to improve the physician-patient relationship.
While a physician’s primary focus is providing the best possible treatment for their patient’s disease, it is essential that they not neglect care for their patient as a person. One of the most common complaints from patients is that they do not feel their doctor understands them or how their disease effects their life. While many physicians believe that nurses and support staff are the most important players in influencing patient experience, patients report that it is the interaction with their physician that has the greatest influence on their experience. The importance of a strong physician-patient relationship is backed by multiple studies, and has been shown to improve overall patient satisfaction and comfort level.
One of the best ways to improve the physician-patient relationship is through integration of the patient’s voice into IME activities. Inclusion of patient perspectives into physician learning experiences increases a physician’s awareness of their patient’s needs, improves physician-patient communication, and provides a unique perspective. Indeed, incorporation of the patient’s voice into IME is considered so important that the Accreditation Counsel for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) introduced criteria supporting the inclusion of patients and public representatives in the planning and delivering of medical education activities. According to Graham McMahon, MD, the president of the ACCME, “By participating as members of the education team, patients, families, caregivers, and other members of the public can increase the relevance, meaning, and effectiveness of CME. Through sharing their experiences, they can provide essential feedback and can guide educators and clinicians in meeting their needs and priorities.”
Physicians who participate in educational activities that feature patients consistently report improved patient relationships, a better understanding of the patient experience, and greater comfort in communicating with their patients about their disease, treatment, and quality of life.