Doctors Talk, But They Don't Often Communicate

I've posted about this topic before. It seems doctors and their staff are not well trained in the art of eloquence.  They tend to tell us what to do and are missing the gene that requires them to explain.  Case in point, last week my father went in for an MRI of his hip/leg which has been bothering him for several years now.  After arriving home, he was called with an urgent request to drop everything and rush back to the hospital because they found something unrelated that they were concerned about.  No time to say hello, goodbye, you're late, you're late, you're late!! He raced back down there where they did all sorts of tests and told him to stay to talk to the specialist who would tell him what needed to be done and how fast.  My father, at this point, just wanted to go home and asked if he could see the specialist the next day. He was told that was fine, but they wanted to see him "right away." He never did hear from the specialist so he called and was told that the earliest appointment he could get with the specialist was two weeks out.  What happened to "right away?"  Aside from the fact that the office didn't have any of his paperwork, they seemed unconcerned. First they scare him half to death and have him rush down, do not pass go, do not collect $200.  Next, they tell him he HAS to be seen right away.  Then suddenly, it's not so urgent.  We wondered if it wasn't so urgent because they looked at his tests or it wasn't so urgent because they had no idea who he was or what he had.  Either way, it would have been nice if someone had told us (him) and eased his concerns. Aside from the confusion of the communication from the doctor to patient was the confusion that took place each of the MANY times he talked to the doctor's office to straighten this out.  Why is it so difficult for most doctors and doctor's offices to relay proper information to their patients?  When you are dealing with people's health, shouldn't it be a priority to keep them properly informed so that a dire situation doesn't turn deadly and a benign situation doesn't needlessly worry a patient? Now before I get hate mail from people who know a doctor who does take the time and whose staff does do a good job of this, let me say I understand that there are exceptions, but in my experience, many doctors and doctor's offices are in grave need of learning communication skills.  In fact, I read an article several years back where the AMA suggested that doctors and staff learn to communicate well as a way of cutting down on malpractice suits.  It stated that many, if not most, of the lawsuits were filed not because the doctor  messed up someone's treatment, but because they failed to explain things effectively to their patients. In my study, Say What You Mean Every Day, there is a chapter called, "Doctor! Doctor!" where I discuss this very issue.  Visit the product page to learn more about this study and to download our free sample excerpts (link at bottom of page) with a part of that chapter! What's your experience with doctor/patient communication?  Please share your experiences. If you liked this post, please subscribe to our RSS feed and share the link…


  • JoJo

    I’ve been praying for your mom and for you as you deal with everything needed. This is a HUGE issue for so many! My mom and I were talking the other day about how important communication skills are, how society as a whole has declined in their communication skills and how it affects every area of our every day lives. I’d love to take this message to folks on a grand scale. It needs to be addressed for the health of so many people rely on it.

  • Carla

    Sounds like the Army, hurry up and wait! You know I’ve been dealing with my mom in the hospital, rehab, hospital, etc. It is sooooooooooooo frustrating! We pay for insurance and I have to do most of the “legwork” myself. I have to do the research, which kind of upsets me. But what upsets me worse is that I get a different answer from everybody concerned. The medical people tell me one thing (sometimes the same thing, but not often). Then the administration folks tell me something else and tell me the docs should not have spoken ‘cuz they don’t know insurance law. Then the docs start about how no accountant is telling them how to practice medicine (wanna bet?) In the meantime, my head is spinning, my mother is still laying in that bed and I have no idea which end is up. And then, when you do what they tell you to do, you can’t get them back on the phone for days! This is only the tip of the iceberg. They need more than your book, JoJo. They need you in their pocket!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Word of the Week: Natural

    […] Monday I posted about how doctors don’t communicate to their patients well enough.  Today I’d like to talk about something a bit outside the […]

  • JoJo

    Thanks, Mitch.

  • Mitch Hynds

    i like your post

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