Improving doctor-patient communication

| Chris Paoli
Who are the scientists receiving our grants? What inspires their research into psoriatic disease? In this series we profile some of the researchers who are leading the charge to find new treatments and, we hope, milestones to a cure. 
Charlotte Read, MBBS, is a clinical research fellow at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California. 
The Scotland-born research scientist, who received her medical degree at the Imperial College London, is working with renowned dermatologist April Armstrong, M.D., MPH, professor of dermatol-ogy and associate dean of clinical research. Together, they are looking for ways to improve communication between health care providers and psoriasis patients.
Their project is supported by an NPF Psoriatic Disease Research Fellowship. 
Chris Paoli: When did you know you wanted to research psoriatic disease?
Charlotte Read: I’ve always had an affinity for science, and research in general. I loved doing science-related projects in school and I was always asking questions. It also helped that my parents are also doctors who do research, so I was very much exposed to that kind of world. At a young age, I might have not known exactly what I wanted to study, but I knew I wanted to be in medicine and I wanted to do research. 
I also have a personal connection to the disease. I grew up watching my brother with psoriasis. In hindsight, I can say that definitely contributed to my career path and he was a huge reason why I initially applied to medical school. He provided great insight into what it’s like to be a patient and the importance of doctors being able to communicate well with patients. 
CP: How would you explain your current research to a child? 
CR: My team and I are looking to improve how doctors talk with their patients. We looked at how important communication between a doctor and patient is. And now the next phase of our research, with the help of the incredible support of the NPF, is to see if we can use new strategies to improve how we can communicate, specifically with the use of educational materials. 
And, hopefully, if we can do this, then patients will be more aware of their disease process and why they need to take certain medications. This understanding will ultimately, we hope, lead to better outcomes for the patients. Their skin might look better, they might feel better inside and they might feel more in control of their disease. 
CP: What do you enjoy most about studying psoriatic disease? 
CR: It’s the real-time transformation that I can see in patients, both clinically and psychologically. There are not a lot of conditions that I’ve come across that have seen an overall increase in quality treatment options in a relatively short amount of time. In some cases, patients are going from having the worst disease they’ve ever had to telling us, even in a couple weeks, that their skin is doing much better. 
More specifically, with my research and trying to improve communication between patients and health care providers, I’ve already started to see a change with doctors who are starting to explain things more clearly and taking more time with patients. We’re seeing patients leaving their appointments happier, compared to when they leave the doctor’s office feeling like their questions have not been adequately answered. 
CP: How do you see psoriatic disease research progressing over the next few years?
CR: We’re learning more and more about the disease process and we’re learning more about the genetics of psoriasis. I think that genetics will be a huge factor in propelling research forward. I think we can get to a point where we can tailor treatments and care based on a patient’s genetic profile. 
I really believe in personalized medical care. Yes, there are common trends. But an individual should be treated as an individual. I don’t think we will be quite there in the next few years, but I think we will be getting closer.

How you can help

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Other stories in our researcher series: 

Driving discovery, creating community

For more than 50 years, we’ve been driving efforts to cure psoriatic disease and improve the lives of those affected. But there’s still plenty to do! Learn how you can help our advocacy team shape the laws and policies that affect people with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis – in your state and across the country. Help us raise funds to support research by joining Team NPF, where you can walk, run, cycle, play bingo or create your own fundraising event. If you or someone you love needs free, personalized support for living a healthier life with psoriatic disease, contact our Patient Navigation Center. And keep the National Psoriasis Foundation going strong by making a donation today. Together, we will find a cure.

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