Written by Janki Patel
It is generally difficult for physicians and other healthcare professionals to properly communicate with their patients. This includes having good listening, being patience, being able to properly give bad news, addressing the patient’s condition with a proper diagnosis, and more . However, it is also difficult for physicians to maintain a good relationship with their patients, especially if there is bad communication. Based on 2008 Johns Hopkins School of Medicine study done on 3,123 patients, only 33% of the patients reported that their physician's behavior was "excellent,” revealing that there is poor physician-patient communication . So, what can be done to improve patient-to-doctor communication? Surprisingly, graphic novels! It is easy to believe that graphic novels are only for children and adolescents. However, their reach is not limited to the youth. Graphic novels can be great for people of all ages for enjoyment as well as for health education .
Clinicians, especially physicians, hold much power in their field of work, which is why most patients believe what they have to say. Hence, physicians need to be able to properly communicate health education to their trusting patients in regards to their care. This is where graphic novels come in. They not only have written information corresponding to the patient's condition, but they also have narratives that may describe the patient's illness experience. A patient may be able to relate more with the characters in graphic novels, which can help with their overall journey to better health. Graphic novels can be successful in conveying messages to patients through imagery, the character’s backgrounds and appearance, and changes in font sizes and styles, etc. .
There are many graphic novels that have been published to help patients. An example is Cancer Vixen by Marisa Marchetto, which is a graphic novel where the author describes and illustrates her experiences with breast cancer. In one of the scenes of the novel, Marchetto's physician is telling her not to be scared, but readers can clearly see from the illustrations that Marchetto is still afraid. Just because the physician tells her not to be scared does not mean that she will not be, but the physician may not know that. Thus, patients can relate to Marchetto's journey with breast cancer in ways that a physician cannot describe to them .
There is evidence indicating that graphic novels do improve patient care and treatment. In a 2016 Manchester Metropolitan University study with university students and some of their family members, participants described having greater self-awareness about their conditions through the novels and, which caused them to realize how the comics can play a role in their journey as a patient . Overall, graphic novels can be great medium that can improve patient understanding of health issues, as well as improve physician-patient communication. Hence, they should be utilized more often in medical practices around the world.
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