Persistent physical symptoms that cannot or not sufficiently be explained by a medical cause affect a substantial part of the general population. They are associated with symptom distress, high levels of disability, an increased risk to develop comorbid mental disorders, and financial burden for healthcare systems.
A central problem is that patients usually undergo numerous diagnostic procedures and less helpful treatment approaches before they get introduced to a multidisciplinary symptom management addressing medical but also psychological interventions. A central gatekeeper of this dysfunctional diagnostic and treatment process is the general practitioner who is usually the first and main contact person of this group of patients.
General practitioners however find managing patients with persistent physical symptoms as challenging and experience problems in caring for these patients. The communication between clinician and patients faces challenges. GPs for example feel pressured to somatic interventions and experience problems with explaining the origin of symptoms including psychosocial factors. The communication is often less patient-centred.
Research projects of this theme have the central aim to investigate communication barriers that appear in interactions between clinicians and patients suffering from persistent physical symptoms. In the long-term results of projects summarised under this research theme shall develop guidelines for an efficient patient-clinician communication about persistent physical symptoms.