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Doody's Review ServiceReviewer: Albert Liebman, MD (Medical College of Wisconsin)
Description: This is the second edition of a book in which the authors address the process of the medical interview and the patient-physician clinical encounter.
Purpose: The authors point out that this text originally grew out of a 1981 publication entitled Introduction to the Clinical Interview—A Handbook for Optometry Students by David Greenberg, Stanley Reiser, and the authors of this book. Subsequent revisions were made by the Harvard Medical Faculty, including Dr. Billings, to serve as a text in introductory courses in clinical medicine for students at the Massachusetts General Hospital. The authors have two intentions. The first is to reveal the multiplicity of meanings extant in the process of the physician-patient interview. By revealing the nature of the process in which crucial information is gathered and a highly personal trusting relationship is being forged, the authors then fulfill a second intention, which is to offer a prescription for the right way to conduct the patient interview — not a rigid one — but one with wonderfully insightful tips in order to make accurate diagnoses to be a physician in the full sense of the word.
Audience: This book is clearly intended for medical students beginning their work in clinical medicine. The authors address the format for complete history taking and the assessment and plan for patients, as well as furnish sample case write-ups and tips for oral presentation of cases to supervising teachers. All this information is supplied in a superb fashion. This book also contains information that can be of substantial value to resident physicians, medical students not exposed to a similar approach to patients, and to practicing physicians who may gain new insights about their daily encounters with patients. The authors clearly demonstrate reliable knowledge on the subject matter.
Features: The book is divided into two parts. The first contains eight chapters on the interview process and a ninth chapter with reading references. Tables, called "quick tips," are used periodically to summarize topics. Part II consists of ten chapters on a variety of topics. There is an afterword, "History of History Taking." Chapters are introduced with a variety of well-chosen quotations and aphorisms on the subject of the physician's task. The authors offer the student physician insights into patient needs and wants, expressed in language appropriate for the medical context and mercifully devoid of communications theory jargon.
Assessment: As an instructive guide to medical students and medical residents, this book is in a class by itself. The wisdom that underlies the writing of this book offers physicians-to-be and practicing physicians insights that will improve their patient care as well as enhance their enjoyment of their lives as physicians.