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The stethoscope maketh the doctor

Forget the hundreds of hours spent studying anatomy and training in medical techniques, or the years involved in honing skills and developing expertise. If doctors really want to earn the trust of their patients, all of this effort counts for little unless they wear a stethoscope, according to a study by the Curtin Health Innovation Research Institute.

02 Sep 2012

Forget the hundreds of hours spent studying anatomy and training in medical techniques, or the years involved in honing skills and developing expertise.

If doctors really want to earn the trust of their patients, all of this effort counts for little unless they wear a stethoscope, according to a study by the Curtin Health Innovation Research Institute.

Just as truckies have their blue singlets and construction workers their hard hats, so too doctors must have their stethoscopes, an investigation into patient responses to online consultations has found.

The researchers, led by Professor Moyez Jiwa, set out to discover ways to enhance the online consultation experience of patients.

Professor Jiwa said in traditional face-to-face consultations patients were able to engage all five of their senses, while in online consults they had to rely on just two – sight and sound.

“If we are to see doctors online, the five senses are not engaged,” Professor Jiwa told online newsletter eHealthspace. “So, in order to get the best experience online, the doctor must make the most of the traditional medical symbols available.”

The researchers asked 168 patients to rank traditional medical symbols including stethoscopes, surgical scrubs and reflex hammers according to the extent to which they inspired feelings of trustworthiness.

“The stethoscope was king,” Professor Jiwa said, with 95 per cent of respondents reporting it inspired the greatest feelings of trust.

He recommended that doctors conducting consultations online consider using props, particularly stethoscopes, though he admitted they could be abused by unscrupulous operators.

“It could be very easy to deceive people online,” Professor Jiwa said. “You don’t need a licence to buy a stethoscope.”

 AR


Published: 02 Sep 2012