Medical Humanities


Doctoring the Elderly

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Doctoring the Elderly

Lim Ni Eng and KK Luke

The project is an interdisciplinary study on authentic medical interaction with elderly patients within the diverse context of multilingual-multicultural Singapore. The proposed methodology uses video recordings of the actual doctor-patient consultations to examine the efficacy of regular interactional practices that doctors use in their consultation with elderly patients, via the qualitative methodology of Conversation Analysis (CA). How these interactional practices impact patients’ satisfaction and their understanding of the medical consultation are examined to identify best practices and common short-comings in communicating healthcare to elderly patients in Singapore. The eventual goal of this project is to improve medical outcomes for the elderly (i.e. better healthcare knowledge, higher patient satisfaction and stronger treatment adherence) through more effective medical communication. To operationalize the study, we collated a corpus of video-recordings on first-visit consultations in the Urology clinics of Tan Tock Seng Hospital. Initial findings from the pilot data reveal specific areas of concerns, such as how different formulations of talk and their sequential positioning in the doctors’ recommendation may affect patients’ agreement to undergo crucial diagnostic tests for treatment of hematuria (blood in urine). The interdisciplinary collaboration between linguists, frontline clinicians and medical educators in this research promises findings of significance not only to medical studies, but to language and cultural studies in the social sciences as well.