just how closely is your doctor listening to you

The reality for the overwhelming majority of people is that a trip to the doctor’s office is often somewhat stressful and perhaps even a bit daunting. That’s because they are not only worried about their health, but also find the prospect of talking with a highly trained medical professional rather intimidating.

This sense of intimidation may stem from prior experiences in which a patient felt as if he or she was cut off by a physician before being able to fully articulate the problem or ask the necessary questions.

As it turns out, this isn’t just something these patients are imagining either. The physician-authors of a newly published book examining patient-doctor relationships found that the during the average outpatient visit a physician takes only ten seconds to listen to a patient describe his or her problem.

Of course, this is problematic because a lack of dialogue between patients and their treating physicians often form the foundation of misdiagnoses, which a 25-year study released last year by the National Practitioner Data Bank found were the most frequent, most expensive and most hazardous of all medical mistakes.

According to experts, the primary reason behind this absence of meaningful communication is that hospitals or health care groups have set requirements for the number of patients that physicians are supposed to see per day, such that treatment becomes more about following protocols and algorithms rather than about listening to what a patient has to say.

The good news is that there are steps patients can take to help combat this problem head-on, such that they don’t become victimized by misdiagnoses brought about by a cursory examination.

First and foremost, experts urge patients to be assertive about their needs and not feel as if they can’t participate in the process. Second, they advise patients to make the necessary preparations before their appointment, including reviewing both their medical history and prescriptions, and writing a detailed narrative about their issue to be shared with the physician. Finally, they recommend patients write down questions they might have and the responses from physicians.

What have your experiences been during physician visits? Do you feel that short and impersonal examinations are the norm or the exception? Have you ever been the victim of a misdiagnosis?

Source: The Denver Post, “Is your doctor listening to you? Here’s how to avoid a misdiagnosis,” Claire Martin, June 30, 2014

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