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Show 1205: How Do Patients' Stories Shape Their Care?

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Doctors may need to listen to patients' stories more closely when the illness is complex. That attention can help with diagnosis and build trust.
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How do doctors figure out what is wrong with a person and how they can be treated effectively? Traditionally, medicine has put great emphasis on the patient’s history, which usually means the patient has to tell a story. What hurts? When did it start? What happened next? One drawback of the way medicine is currently practiced is that doctors don’t feel they have the time to listen to patients' stories all the way through. But that may be necessary to get the complete overview they need.

(You might be interested in the article published this week in JAMA, by Dr. Adeline Goss, a former public radio reporter: “How Becoming a Doctor Made Me a Worse Listener.”)

Narrative Medicine and the Value of Patients' Stories:

Our guest today, Dr. Sonia Rapaport, practices holistic medicine. She treats medically complex patients with undiagnosed or hard-to-treat conditions. Listening to their stories is crucial to figuring out what may be wrong with them and helping them see how they can live more fully even if they can’t be completely cured.

Find out how narrative medicine can be integrated with a data-based medical framework. Do older healing traditions play a role in helping patients recover? In addition, what does it mean to truly listen to patients' stories and help them change the narrative? Do they feel better after they embrace the new narrative? Dr. Rapaport describes the key principles she uses in addressing her patients’ suffering.

This Week's Guest:

Sonia Rapaport, MD, is a functional and integrative medicine physician whose practice, Haven Medical in Chapel Hill, NC, focuses on environmentally acquired illnesses. She treats medically complex patients with undiagnosed illnesses and complex disorders such as mold illness, Lyme disease, mast cell activation syndrome, chronic fatigue syndrome, EDS and POTS. She’s the founding past president of the International Society for Environmentally Acquired Illness. Dr. Rapaport has an MFA in creative writing and has lectured nationally on narrative medicine. She’s also an expert on tea and health and a certified tea sommelier.

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