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May 26, 2003

Two Collaborating Artists Produce a Work of Art: The Medical Interview

Arch Intern Med. 2003;163(10):1131-1132. doi:10.1001/archinte.163.10.1131

AN IMPLICATION of the phrase "taking a history" is that the doctor is performing an act of extraction similar to a dentist's removing a tooth. Indeed, the process is often as brutal as it sounds, an assault of closed-ended questions punctuated briefly by faint yes or no answers from the patient, who becomes alienated, uncooperative, and dissatisfied as the process continues.1-5 In this issue of the ARCHIVES, Haidet and Paterniti6 suggest a better structure and metaphor for the medical interview, that of "building a history." While "taking a history" implies an aggressor acting on a victim, a taker, and a taken-from, "building" one allows for a joint effort between the doctor and the patient.