arts medicine

Humanistic medicine

Humanistic medicine or values-based medicine is an interdisciplinary field in the practice of clinical care, aimed at addressing the problems of contemporary health care. The fundamental principles of humanistic medicine are open communication, mutual respect, and emotional connection between physicians and their patients, termed "relationship-centered" or "patient-centered" care, in contrast to "case-centered" or "disease-centered" care.

Problems facing healthcare

In many countries with modern medical technology, healthcare systems are facing enormous difficulties in meeting demands such as distributing resources and providing adequate care due to the large number of patients in need. As these healthcare systems become larger and more bureaucratic, both practitioners and patients experience dehumanization. Healthcare practitioners often experience high levels of stress and burnout. Doctors facing a large number of patients are not giving individual patients the attention they need, resulting in patients seeking alternative treatments. The rising costs of medical services, technology, and medication are becoming unaffordable for many patients preventing these individuals from receiving adequate healthcare. Studies have shown that poor doctor-patient relationships result in lawsuits against healthcare providers. These lawsuits have become a major burden to medical personnel and have risen in both number and cost.

The philosophy of humanistic medicine

The crux of humanistic medicine is holistic healing, treating not only the body but acknowledging the soul as well. Humanistic medicine attempts to complement physical recovery by connecting with patients through empathy, patience, and compassion. It is the humanistic belief that part of one’s suffering during illness stems from the feeling of isolation from other human beings while in a weakened state. By reestablishing this connection, true healing can begin to take place.


Among the approaches used to encourage the practice of a more humane medicine are narrative medicine and patient empowerment. Narrative medicine is a way of educating physicians, nurses and other providers that uses storytelling (and active listening) to emphasize the humanity of patient and provider, enabling the "physician to practice medicine with empathy, reflection, professionalism, and trustworthiness." Patient empowerment seeks to create an equal partnership between doctors and their patients. Both of the practices emphasize the importance of the human experience in the practice of medicine, and help to ensure that the humanity of the patient is not obscured in a morass of lab results, patient charts, and insurance regulations. Humanistic medicine strives to create ideal and balanced care that sacrifices neither cutting-edge science nor the gentle art of creating a caring relationship. Various health professional schools across the U.S. have begun to integrate humanistic medical teaching into their curricula in an effort to offset what some view as an over-emphasis on medical technology to the detriment of individual patient care.


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