The Practice of Medicine

The practice of medicine is an art as well as a science. For a long time now we have focussed on the science, and ignored the art.

Evidence-based medicine has been regarded as the ‘gold standard’ and we have been asked to apply it to all people and all cases.

But evidence-based medicine is based on population studies, and while it may give us a big picture on which to base our decisions, it does not apply in every single case. Indeed, applying it indiscriminately can cause great harm, for people are unique individuals, who do not always fit into evidence-based sized boxes.

This is the art of medicine – knowing when to apply the evidence; when, having applied it, it is clearly not working for this particular person; and knowing that the evidence is limited to the physical, and that we are more than purely physical.


Indeed, there are cracks appearing in evidence-based medicine… it is increasingly being shown that some of the evidence is flawed, that studies are largely not repeatable; even then studies have been corrupted because of the vested interests of those paying for the research…

Evidence-based medicine is important, but it is not everything. The art of medicine is time honoured… listening to the patient, observing them, examining them as a whole in the context of work, family, community, society, all of which influence how we are.

Bringing this art together with true science – which itself is the art of observing things as they are, not as we would like them to be – offers us a way forward, to become true practitioners of medicine again.

By Dr Jane Barker and Dr Anne Malatt – Photography by Alan Johnston

Read more

Latest Articles on the Practice of Medicine

Medical Education Fragmenting

Medical education – stop fragmenting it further and restore it to...

THERE has recently been a move to bring medical education under a centralised umbrella.(1) With this comes a move to increase the powers of...
Baby elephant ears for article on Listening by Dr Jane Barker

Listening with heart

  “Listen to your patient; he is telling you the diagnosis.” William Osler Listening is an art and in clinical practice its value cannot be over emphasised....
Dr Anne Malatt & Dr Jane Barker hand in hand - photo by Alan Johnston - for article on Relationships in Medicine

Medicine is about relationships, for Medicine is about people

That Medicine is first and foremost about people, about relationships, is something which may be forgotten in the overwhelm of evidence-based practice and protocols,...
Bee on lavender symbolising the practise of medicine photo by Alan Johnston

Why do we say that we practise medicine?

When we talk about being doctors, we don’t say that we do medicine or that we are medicine; we say that we practise medicine....
Doctor Anne Malatt

Doctors can learn about life from their patients

Doctors aren’t supposed to have favourite patients. We are not supposed to feel anything, really. We are supposed to be objective, dispassionate, and to not...
Dr Jane Barker caring for a patient

Compliance – should we look at it in a different way?

As medical knowledge expands exponentially, it becomes increasingly apparent how little we actually know about the miracle that is the human body. In medical school...
Compassion in Medicine -doctor and patient

Adding Love to Medical Care

Just as "a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down" so a teaspoon of love added to medical care makes all the difference...