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Proseminar Reflections – March 5

By:  Rosa Rios Avendano

Last Saturday we had a wonderful speaker, Doctor Robert Smith, who further informed us about the biopsychosocial (BPS) model. He is a physician of internal medicine and a distinguished professor at Michigan State University. He has published several articles over his career about the BPS model, its implementation, reliability, and effectiveness.

The biopsychosocial model is the consideration of biological, psychological, and social aspects of health to evaluate a patient’s illness. This method integrates communication skills, coordination of care, community services, patient’s feelings, and their social interactions to render improved quality of care. The advantages of this method rely on the integration of psycho-social analysis for disease diagnosis.  Because it acknowledges potential root causes of illness and places an emphasis on quality information exchange, this model has the potential to improve the patient-doctor relationship, patient’s trust, and compliance with medication.

Despite multiple advantages of the BPS model, it had been difficult to implement this method into modern medicine entirely because it lacked functional scientific evidence. The model has been criticized for its lack of organization and abundant data that may not be related to the patient’s disease.

Finally, in 1998 the biopsychosocial model was implemented in a randomized controlled clinical trial demonstrating its consistent results and effectiveness. In 2009, the BPS illustrated positive outcomes in clinical treatments. For example, patients treated with the BPS model did not have enhancement of the right anterior insula of the brain in MRI. Increased activity in the right anterior insula has been correlated with fear. In others words, patients treated with this patient-centered model had no fear and increased satisfaction.

Doctor Smith gave great input on the BPS model by demonstrating evidence-based information about patient improvement. He also created a patient’s behavioral interview method to position the BPS into practice.

Nowadays we have enough evidence to assure the functionality of the BPS model. Nevertheless, we will need more tools to implement and expand the model. With the growing field of health communication, we should be able to propagate this method and educate health providers to improve integrated care. Health communication professionals will be capable of identifying communication breakage between providers and patients. This will facilitate the redesigning of strategies to render high-quality care. Health communicators will also be part of teaching interview skills to doctors in training to assure early understanding of the integration of the psycho-social aspect of medical science.

More research will certainly be needed to define outcomes in each disease and create more teaching strategies for our diverse provider population. At Northwestern University, we are building professionals dedicated to improving communication in healthcare and create solutions to the most pressing problems in our society.

For more information about the BPS model visit the website: