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There are more challenges than ever in today's healthcare environment.

Limited
appointment time, the ability of patients to do their own research which then needs to be
discussed with practitioners, and the numbers of patients who are undiagnosed or
misdiagnosed; these challenges and others make effective communications between
patients and their practitioners more important than ever.
Good communications really boils down to two things: respect for each other, and the
ability to manage expectations.
The following will help you understand how to be a good communicator yourself, and
what to epect from a practitioner who is a good communicator.
A patient who is a good communicator:
Will be mindful of the doctor's limited time. !hile some references tell us a
patient has an average of only "#$% minutes per appointment with his doctor,
other references say the average is $&#'% minutes. The discrepancy may be due to
the kind of visit, whether the doctor is primary care or a specialist, or even health
insurance coverage. (egardless of the difference, it makes most sense for us
patients to prepare ahead for the probability that the visit will be shorter than we
epect.
Will be concise in his communication, preparing carefully for meetings with his
practitioner. ) well#organi*ed patient prepares +uestions ahead of appointments,
and sticks to the facts. !ith so little appointment time, you'll want to be sure your
doctor has all the important information about your problems, and has time to
answer all your +uestions.
Will ask the meaning of words and concepts he doesn't understand. ,octors
are trained to use a leicon of med#speak that baffles us patients. General medical
terms are used by all doctors or many specialties. -ther words and concepts are
specific to body systems, conditions, diseases or treatments. .n all cases, you'll
walk away much more satisfied from your visit, having learned what you need to
know, if you stop your doctor and ask for a definition or description when he uses
a concept or term you don't understand.
If interrupted, will ask the doctor to stop and listen respectfully. /ome studies
say it takes only '0 seconds before a doctor interrupts his patient. ,r. 1erome
Groopman, author of How Doctors Think, states that doctors interrupt their
patients within $" seconds of the start of their conversation. .f your doctor
interrupts you, politely ask him to listen to your entire list of symptoms, or to let
you ask your entire +uestion. /ometimes a simple gesture such as gently holding
up your hand will alert your doctor to stop and listen to you.
Will ask his doctor what to expect next. 2o matter what point you are in your
transition through the system: before, during or after diagnosis or treatment,
asking your doctor what happens net will help you understand what is going on
immediately, and what your outcomes might be. 3or eample, if your doctor says
he is sending you for a medical test, you might ask what he epects the results
will be, or what the possible outcomes might be, and what they would mean. .f he
can manage your epectations, you will have more confidence about the process
and its outcomes.
Will know which questions to ask the doctor, and which to sae for others.
4our doctor is the person who should answer any of your medical +uestions. 5ut
other +uestions, such as directions to a testing center, or the time of your net
appointment, or where you should park your car, can be asked of others on the
doctor's staff. That conserves your short appointment time for the important,
medical aspects of your care.
A doctor or practitioner who is a good communicator:
!as respect for her patient. Good doctors understand that a sick or in6ured
patient is highly vulnerable. 5eing respectful goes a long way toward helping that
patient eplain symptoms, take responsibility for decision#making, and complying
with instructions.
!as the ability to share information in terms her patients can understand .
.t's -7 to use med#speak and complicated terms, but they should be accompanied
by an eplanation at the same time.
"oesn't interrupt or stereotype her patients. .t's easy for all of us to interrupt
when we know time is short or we are in a hurry, but a practitioner who is a good
communicator knows that if it can't be done right to begin with, it will need to be
done over. Listening carefully and respectfully will go a long way toward better
outcomes for the patient.
!as the ability to effectiely manage patients' expectations. 5y helping her
patient understand what the net steps will be, and what the possible outcomes
and their ramifications might be, the doctor can go a long way toward helping that
patient understand his problem.
Additional #esources:
!hat 8atients !ant from Their ,octors
)re 8atient -ffice 9isits Getting /horter:
8atient#8hysician ;ommunication: !hy and <ow:
How Doctors Think by 1erome Groopman, =,
#elated Articles
.mproving ;ommunication !ith 4our 8ediatrician
Get the =ost from 4our ,octor's )ppointment
<ow to Talk to 4our ,octors # ,octor 8atient ;ommunication
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and...
Trisha Torrey
8atient >mpowerment Guide
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