COVID-19: Ways to combine Evidence-Based Medicine and the humanization of the doctor-patient relationship

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Mr. Vinícius Carvalho de Oliveira, a 7th period medical student at Faculdade Atenas, in Sete Lagoas, Minas Gerais, Brazil. He is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writers and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

The COVID-19 pandemic started with an outbreak of cases in Wuhan, China, in 2019. This disease presents itself as a Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, from the coronavirus family.

The pathophysiology is still not entirely clear. However, genetic mapping and clinical trials continued to be presented with the aim of knowing the best ways to contain the disease. For this, it is necessary to practice Evidence-Based Medicine (EBM).

What is EBM and what is its resistance in the face of COVID-19?

EBM stands for finding the best clinical evidence from systematic processes. Based on this, evidence-based practice is applied, a way of using epidemiology and clinical data for decision-making.

In this sense, one can see the importance of applying this concept to the development of prevention methods, such as the use of masks, social isolation and vaccination and treatment methods, with new medical practices in the hospital environment and new medications.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic brings to light what has long been discussed around the world: how to align technical-scientific knowledge with the humanization of the doctor-patient relationship?

The importance of person and family centered care for patients with COVID-19

It is estimated that nearly 7 million people have died due to COVID-19. This data may explain the emotional burden imposed by the disease on its bearer. The fear of death, the anguish of family members and the social obstacles caused by its consequences encouraged the doctor to have skills that went beyond technical knowledge and that were in accordance with the principle of care centered on the person and the family.

Person and family centered care as a principle of health care seeks to ensure medical care that transcends the curative vision and considers the biopsychosocial context in which the individual is inserted. This principle becomes even more relevant when dealing with a pandemic disease, since the plurality of ethnicities and cultures spread around the world gave an expanded look in the search for the health of the population.

Applying EBM to humanized care in COVID-19

Currently, one of the major challenges in coping with COVID-19 would be to combine technical knowledge with medical care from the perspective of comprehensiveness. For this difficult mission to be carried out effectively, it is necessary to act at the roots of the problem.

First, a doctor who is alien to Evidence-Based Medicine can be a victim of a system fueled by several factors, among which a mechanistic teaching system, the appreciation of the population by paternalistic doctors and the denial of science in the face of inability to solve the problem.

A professional who distances himself from humanized care, on the other hand, does so possibly because of an academic background that devalues the teaching of bioethics and medical ethics.

These factors may contribute to the mismatch between evidence-based practice and the humanization of the doctor-patient relationship. Therefore, they must receive special attention when implementing changes in the management of patients with a disease with such diverse presentations.

About the author

Vinícius Carvalho de Oliveira is a 7th period medical student at Faculdade Atenas, in Sete Lagoas, Minas Gerais, Brazil. He is Regional Assistant to the Scientific Team of the International Federation of Medical Students Association (IFMSA) and Vice President for External Affairs of its local committee (LVPE). In addition to being passionate about medicine, Vinícius believes that access to education in youth is the way to combat social inequalities and contribute to scientific and technological advancement in the world.

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