Breakthrough Patient Recruitment

: Responsibility for Good Doctor-Patient Communication Lies with Both Doctors and Patients

Responsibility for Good Doctor-Patient Communication Lies with Both Doctors and Patients

Outreach Specialist

In a world where people are habitually trying to fit more responsibility into the same amount of hours--hours during which they are constantly connected to the world through mobile devices and other forms of technology--multitasking and disengagement in the present are becoming more of a new social norm. But what if this is the case when individuals are visiting their doctors?

Are you engaged?

As we know, communication is a two way street. How many times have you found yourself sitting in the doctor's room and either you or your doctor (or both) have one foot out the door already moving onto the next agenda item for the day? Or perhaps you just checked your email on your phone before the doctor came in, and your mind is engaged on that crucial client email instead of being fully focused on the information the doctor is communicating. On the other end, doctors are becoming more strapped for time as well with their increasingly busy schedules and sometimes temperamental new technology. 

Are you literate on your health?

Not only are time and engagement issues becoming more prominent in the doctor- patient communication relationship, but awareness and health literacy can also be barriers to ensuring that the patient fully understands how to best take care of his or her health. Doctors may explain vital information in a way that makes sense to them, with years of education in the medical field, but that explanation may not make sense to the patient who has no such education or knowledge.  Some individuals may not probe the doctor for further clarification because of intimidation. I've been guilty of this myself to avoid looking uneducated.

What poor communication means for your health

When you're healthy, doctor's appointments may seem rote, but when you're facing a more challenging diagnosis, effective communication is critical. For example, kidney disease is an often misunderstood health issue. People who are at high risk for kidney disease include individuals with high blood pressure, diabetes, a family history of kidney disease, or who belong to an ethnic group with high incidences of these health issues. Say an individual has a physical, and after review, the doctor determines that everything looks fine outside of high blood pressure. The doctor and patient communicate efforts to manage blood pressure--important information to be sure because high blood pressure can cause a host of health problems. But what might be missed is this conversation with a patient at risk for kidney disease is what else the patient can do to avoid developing kidney disease, since they are now at a higher risk because of the high blood pressure. Are all patients informed that their high blood pressure also puts them at a higher risk for developing kidney disease? Are doctors mentioning it and offering measures to prevent the development of kidney disease?

Be the number one advocate for your health

Next time you visit the doctor, make sure you allow enough time to be there and be fully engaged in what the doctor is saying. Discuss with the doctor all possible effects that may come from any health issue or concern. And if you don't understand something, make sure to ask the doctor to explain. The pace of life may be fast, but that's the point. Life is too short to overlook important health concerns. Slow down and ask questions. If you feel like you're being rushed by the doctor or don't understand something, speak up! Don't be embarrassed; your health is worth it!

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The Healthy(ist) blog is a platform to share, learn about, and debate topics related to public and social health, scientific research, health communications, and behavior change.
We invite and encourage anyone interested in current public health and health communication trends and issues to join MMG's contributing bloggers in adding their voice to the ongoing discussion about how we can advance health, together.

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