Should you share your personal story with patients?

August 1, 2007

Not if you work in the primary-care setting. A recent study in the Archives of Internal Medicine (6/25/2007) found that primary-care physicians who disclose information about themselves or their families to new patients may actually be disruptive-putting more focus on the physician than the patient's concerns.

Not if you work in the primary-care setting. A recent study in the Archives of Internal Medicine (6/25/2007) found that primary-care physicians who disclose information about themselves or their families to new patients may actually be disruptive-putting more focus on the physician than the patient's concerns.

Sharing personal experiences-called physician self-disclosure (MD-SD) by the study's authors-occurs often. In fact, throughout the study, 38% of the 73 MD-SDs identified occurred most frequently during the history portion of the visit. The researchers also found that none of the MD-SDs related to the patient's concerns, and 60% related back to the physician. Only 4% of self-disclosures were found to provide education, support, explanation, or acknowledgment of the patient's needs. About 11% were analyzed to be disruptive, detracting from the patient-physician relationship.

According to the researchers, "MD-SDs were often non sequiturs, unattached to any discussion in the visit, and focused more on the physicians' than the patients' needs. Longer disclosures, both not useful and disruptive, interrupted the flow of information exchange and expended valuable patient time in the typically time-pressured primary-care visit."