Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A Prescription for Better Physician Communication

tidbits that tantalizeIt's a Good Start...

Wouldn't it be really nice if you didn't actually have to talk to the doctor during an office visit? Maybe a medical interpreter of some type could accompany the doctor into the exam room and translate. This would help the doctors, who often don't understand simple everyday language. It would also help the patients, who often don't understand complex phrases like, "Stop eating double cheeseburgers."

A recent study from the University of Washington and the University of Rochester sheds light on the difficult area of a physician's communication skills. Too much talk is counterproductive, wasting valuable time. Too little talk leaves the patient cold, feeling like their doctor doesn't really understand their concerns.

It's a tough chore for physicians who see tens of thousands of patients in a lifetime, hear between 3 and 6 concerns during each office visit, and have to look over their shoulders to meet efficiency guidelines from their HMOs. But, there is some new help available.

The study's authors developed a set of communication guidelines to help physicians be both efficient and effective. Among the recommendations are:

-Focus on the main purpose of the visit. The researchers recommend the doctor gather all the issues up front, making a list, rather than dealing with each as it's brought up. This allows the doctor to address the most critical issues first.

-Establish rapport with the patient. No more heads down, mumbling, thumbing through the chart routine. Instead, there's actual eye contact and a warm greeting. A very small time investment that yields positive benefits.

So, while going to the doctor is never great fun, it can at least be more productive - for both patient and doctor.

To read more about this study, see this from the University of Washington. To learn more about preparing yourself for a doctor's visit, including samples of questions to ask, see this from ButYouDon'


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