Top Physician Skill -Listening

One physician I’ve worked with recalls a mother of a patient telling him, ‘I really wish my husband would listen the way you do.’  This particular physician replied, ‘Well, just pay him $100 every time you say something.’

While this mother had a good experience with her physician (despite the cost), not all physicians are listening enough.  Here’s a link to a NY Times article that discusses this problem: Doctor, Shut Up and Listen

Here’s an excerpt:

A doctor’s ability to explain, listen and empathize has a profound impact on a patient’s care. Yet, as one survey found, two out of every three patients are discharged from the hospital without even knowing their diagnosis. Another study discovered that in over 60 percent of cases, patients misunderstood directions after a visit to their doctor’s office. And on average, physicians wait just 18 seconds before interrupting patients’ narratives of their symptoms. Evidently, we have a long way to go….

Observation soon revealed that physicians introduced themselves on only about one in four occasions…

Brief, rushed physician encounters were common, with limited opportunity for questions. A lack of empathy was often apparent…

We developed a physician-training program, which involved mock patient interviews and assessment from the actor role-playing the patient. Over 250 physicians were trained using this technique. We also arranged for a “physician coach” to sit in on real patient interviews and provide feedback.

Over the next two years, patient satisfaction with doctors, as measured by a standard questionnaire, moved the hospital’s predicted score up in national rankings by a remarkable 40 percentile points.

My take: I wonder about the accuracy of the information presented in this article.  Despite this, the message is clear that patients want to make sure that physicians are listening to them.

Another NY Times article worth a glance: The Drugs That Companies Promote to Doctors Are Rarely Breakthroughs  One quote: If a drug is either the first to treat a disease or is much better than existing drugs, said Dr. Sidney Wolfe, the founder and now senior adviser to Public Citizen’s Health Research Group, “they ‘sell themselves’ on the merits of their unique benefits.”