How Well Does Your Doctor Communicate with You?

Communication between patients and their doctors makes a big difference in healthcare. It can affect how patients feel about their doctors – whether their doctors seem well informed and caring. Communication can also affect care – whether patients understand health information well enough to follow directions.Patients have long complained that doctors are rude, they’re bad listeners and they don’t explain things clearly. Our updated hospital Ratings show that doctors, nurses, and other clinicians often do a good job of communicating in general with patients, but struggle when it comes to information about drugs and discharge planning.

Those complaints are finally being taken seriously, as poor communication is increasingly understood to be at the root of many of health cares failures a??and a leading culprit in rising costs. Research shows that when doctors don’t listen to patients, they miss important health cues and misdiagnose illness. Meanwhile, patients who dona??t understand what their doctors say fail to follow their regimens, leading to preventable hospitalizations, complications and poor outcomes.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.

It’s very easy to be intimidated by physicians. They know a lot more about medicine than we do. Many people have the impression that physicians are too busy and don’t seem to have enough time to talk with patients. And there are usually more people waiting to see the doctor. However, communication with your doctor should not be a task. Rather, it should come naturally. After all, you are trusting this person with your health, and there are several steps you can take to help this problem. “Try to be a good consumer of heath care,” You’re paying for the service, and the physician should really have the mind-set that you are a customer. When your doctor asks you how you feel, be specific and let him or her know what is wrong. Don’t just tell your doctor you have a stomachache. Say you have a sharp pain on the right side of your lower abdomen after you eat a large meal. The more specific you are, the better your doctor can understand your problem and begin treatment. Include your personal medical history as well as your family’s medical history.

If you’re not satisfied with your doctor visit, tell your doctor. If you are unhappy about how you are treated by any member of the staff, say so. If you’re unhappy with your doctor, find a different doctor. Your doctor doesn’t have to be your friend, but he or she should be someone who will listen to you and answer your questions. Of course, understanding your best medical options depends on getting complete and accurate information from your health-care provider, being referred when necessary to the right specialist, and seamless communication all-around. That’s where some of the other principles come in. The more that people and their health-care providers work together on these principles, the better care everyone will get. If consumers continue to be dismissed and/or intimidated by the medical profession, and clinicians are so busy that they cannot take the time to listen or don’t know how to, then all sense of communication and connection needed will be impossible. This is sure to result in misdiagnosis, self-diagnosis, needless worsening of medical conditions, avoidance of health care altogether and other serious consequences.

Celeste Botonakis

On the Nursing Assistant Guides blog, certified medical assistant Celeste Botonakis explores the daily life of a CMA. She'll keep you up-to-date with the latest on what’s happening in the field, and provides tips for those who are interested in becoming a medical or nursing assistant. Celeste has served in the medical field for over six years, and is passionate about helping people. She currently works at CSR Primary Care in Skokie, Illinois. Click here to learn more about Celeste Botonakis and