Doctor – Patient Communication

Functional GI disorders present a special challenge to the doctor-patient interaction for several reasons. First, functional GI disorders are characterized, in most cases, by vague symptoms of variable intensity. Many times, these symptoms involve the most intimate anatomic areas of the body. The sensitivity of these issues can complicate the task for the patient who needs to express them in terms that the physician can interpret to formulate a diagnosis. Secondly, the physician is hampered by the absence of obvious structural lesions that often lessens the likelihood of devising a specific medical intervention that is successful. In some cases, the physician’s own anxiety can be increased by the lack of a symptom complex that leads to well-understood disease entity, such as parasites or lactose intolerance. This deficiency, in turn, often leads both physician and patient to over-investigate the symptoms. So what are the ingredients that comprise successful doctor-patient communication about the functional GI disorders?