Friday, June 17, 2011

Patients Rate Communication With Doctors (Research, Video: 52)

Does your doctor communicate well with you? Can you ask any question and feel heard, cared for, and unrushed? Are you involved in treatment decisions? Good communication includes compassion, respect, and attentive listening skills. To some degree, these skills can be taught, which is why medical students are given formal training in them. What are the mutual benefits? Doctors can benefit from fewer lawsuits and better reputations, which can enhance their careers. Patients benefit with happier healthcare experiences and better health, even in terms of life and death.

But what is too often the reality of patient-doctor communication from patients’ perspectives? A study reported in Cancer revealed these research results from questionnaires answered by 276 white, black, and Hispanic patients in various stages of lung cancer:

1)   For most topics, the majority of respondents reported that physicians communicated "not at all" or "a little bit."

2)   Low ratings were frequent for discussion of emotional symptoms, confidence interval, practical needs, spiritual concerns, proxy appointment, living will preparation, life support preferences, and hospice.

3)    Communication was inadequate for patients of different ages, stages, and races, although Hispanics were less likely than non-Hispanic whites and blacks to report inadequate communication.

Unfortunately, many of the topics reporting low rates of physician-patient communication impact patients’ health in very detrimental ways, including additional stress, impaired decision-making, and compromised outcomes. These results support research from Massachusetts General Hospital regarding the link between doctor –patient communication and outcomes. This video shares research results and insights for the future.

Frances Shani Parker, Author
Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes is available in paperback at many booksellers and in e-book form at Amazon and Barnes and Noble booksellers.

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