People rely on their doctors to provide them with quality medical advice and treatment. When poor communication gets in the way, the risk of misdiagnosis, surgical errors and other forms of malpractice can compromise patient safety and well-being.
While doctors agree to uphold certain standards of care, people can establish their own expectations for their health care provider. People who develop a good relationship with their doctor and communicate on a regular basis can take control of their safety.
The power of assertion
When people arrive at their doctor appointment, they may anticipate their doctor doing most of the talking. In fact, U.S. News reports that people only have an average of 12 seconds of uninterrupted speaking time before their health care provider interjects. People can establish their expectations for respectful discussion when they use assertion to convey their concerns to their doctor.
Knowing that time may impact the length of a conversation, people should list their questions in order of importance prior to their appointment. They can wait for a satisfactory answer before moving onto their next concern. Some conversations may require subsequent visits to adequately address patient concerns. If people need to wait on test results, they should ask their doctor for an estimated contact time so they can follow up if they do not hear anything after a certain time.
The need for empathy
Doctors must listen with intent and respond to patient inquiries with empathy. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that one of the characteristics of effective doctors is their ability to empathize with their patients. Doctors can show concern when they ask for clarification, listen without interrupting and respond with thoughtful consideration to the individual needs and circumstances of each of their patients.