Are your doctors asking patients the right questions?
| March 06, 2019
In healthcare, you know how crucially important good doctor-patient communication is. Are the doctors in your organization shedding enough light on the key information needed to make an accurate diagnosis every time?
It's vital for doctors to utilize the best verbal and nonverbal forms of communication in order to determine what each patient needs. The good news: research has focused on how doctors can perfect their Q&A skills so they get the patient the accurate info they need.
Suggest that your organization's physicians put this advice into practice:
A study from University of Utah Healthfound that up to 80 percent of patients have lied to their doctors, especially about how much they eat and how little they exercise. Top reasons for fibbing: patients said they didn't want a lecture, or to have their doctors look down on them.
Stress the importance of user-friendly language to your doctors in this regard. Instead of saying, "I asked you to walk three times a week — you aren't walking at all, are you?" a doctor could reframe things to ask a patient, "Is that three times a week walking schedule working for you, or should we look at another exercise plan?" Showing respect and speaking inclusively will help with patient compliance.
Don't interrupt out of the gate.
Researchers from the University of Florida, Gainesville and the Mayo Clinic report that patients get an average of 11 seconds to make an opening statement about the symptoms that brought them to the doctor's office before being interrupted by their physician.
Specialists in particular are notorious for cutting off patient descriptions too soon — only one-in-three doctors make a point of allowing patients to fully outline their situation. Encourage your doctors to refrain from asking any questions until a patient pauses naturally during conversation — that's the time it's OK to draw out the rest of the information necessary, without making a patient feel rushed or not properly listened to.
Make sure all potential outcomes are discussed.
Research from the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center found that doctors on average spent less than a minute explaining the specifics of lung cancer screenings to patients. This can lead patients not to understand the impact of false positives, or the potential risks of invasive follow-up — more than 95 percent of lung nodules are actually not cancer.
Stress the importance of laying out all the risks and benefits of any testing to your doctors, so patients can avoid unnecessary worry, pain or risk from screening procedures.
Use point-by-point checklists.
A study from Michigan Medicine found that what patients describe in terms of their symptoms and what doctors actually record in the medical record is often at odds. This may be because doctors misinterpret vague symptoms or rely too much on their gut instincts when it comes to interpreting what their patients say.
A mandatory, point-by-point diagnostic checklist that can be used by your doctors for each patient eliminates the guesswork.
Welcome your input.
Drop in to your doctors' appointments, with patient permission, for a regular check of how well they communicate and engage. You can then objectively coach your physicians on how to improve their patient interactions. The result: better patient safety and satisfaction.
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