This was the title of a qualitative study in the BJGP (2015; 65: 470 – 1 or DOI: 10.3399/bjgp15X686557) in which GPs asked patients with chronic problems (diabetes, pain, or unexplained symptoms) this question:
How would you assess your general health compared with others your own age? Better? About the same? Worse?
This got some interesting and rather useful reactions. The first reaction was typically distress, anger or shame (over unhealthy living habits); as the patient discussed his or her feelings, this would sometimes evolve into a new perspective that things were not really that bad. Patients could also come up with specifics that helped the doctor to provide better support. On the whole, it was found to improve the consultation and the doctor’s understanding of the patient; perhaps I’ll try it.