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…


  • Janet Theador

    My family and I have had many terrifying and disheartening doctor and hospital visits over the years, too. Just recently, my son was the patient. It took the ER two days to realize he had pneumonia, in spite of so many ‘red flags,’ that I later realized from researching it on the internet afterward. I was with him most of the visits. I finally noticed his cough sounded different, and his skin under his fingernails was blue! [Add to that a test result of ‘elevated white cell count,’ mental confusion, shaking…] At that point, on the 2nd day in ER, the doctor ‘thanked me’ for making them aware. I could only think, “Isn’t this what YOU are supposed to be aware of?” Apparently, part of the difficulty was my that my son, being a young man, didn’t fit the doctor’s idea of someone with pneumonia?
    I must say, my experience has been that some doctors not only need education in communicating with patients/families, but in some cases, anyway, need to have a ‘heart installed.’ Wouldn’t call it a ‘transplant’ because that gives the impression that they had a heart originally.
    [Sorry, but, these memories can be bitter to me…over the past 20 years I cared for my mother and my husband…hospital experiences were not good, because of certain doctors.]
    Communication is critical in every phase of life. When we understand someone, there is a ‘connection,’ whether that person is a friend, a stranger or a doctor. Just that connection can be healing, I believe. Lack of it with one’s doctor can be fatal.

  • JoJo

    Thanks Daina.

  • Daina Bosche

    i like your post

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