National Physicians Alliance

Committed to Advancing the Core Values of the Medical Profession:

Service, Integrity, and Advocacy



What is the Value of Physician Communication?

Posted by February 2, 2015 at 1:30 PM

doctors listen_values post

NPA Values Challenge: “We need to move away from the perception that social skills and better communication are a kind of optional extra for doctors. A good bedside manner is simply good medicine.”

In “Doctor, Shut Up and Listen,” Dr. Nirmal Joshi explores the connection between physician communication failures and serious adverse health outcomes in hospitals.

Does a physician’s ability to explain, listen and empathize have a profound impact on a patient’s care? Do clinicians need more time to understand patients better and to create and maintain healing relationships? These questions are at the heart of the healing physician-patient relationships proposal argued for in NPA’s new policy brief, Value and Values in Health Care.

Read Dr. Joshi’s article below and tell us what you think. Your responses to NPA blog posts help us refine our communications about important issues and influence the choice of initiatives we undertake.

Betsy came to Dr. Martin for a second — or rather, a sixth — opinion. Over a year, she had seen five other physicians for a “rapid heartbeat” and “feeling stressed.” After extensive testing, she had finally been referred for psychological counseling for an anxiety disorder. The careful history Dr. Martin took revealed that Betsy was taking an over-the-counter weight loss product that contained ephedrine. (I have changed their names for privacy’s sake.) When she stopped taking the remedy, her symptoms also stopped. Asked why she hadn’t mentioned this information before, she said she’d “never been asked.” Until then, her providers would sooner order tests than take the time to talk with her about the problem. Betsy’s case was fortunate; poor communication often has much worse consequences. A review of reports by the Joint Commission, a nonprofit that provides accreditation to health care organizations, found that communication failure (rather than a provider’s lack of technical skill) was at the root of over 70 percent of serious adverse health outcomes in hospitals.

For the full article, click here.

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2 Responses to “What is the Value of Physician Communication?”

  1. Mudit says:

    Thanks for this post! Great communication between physicians and patients is incredibly valuable. Often times, if you are able to listen effectively, you will notice that the patient is telling you the diagnosis, without the need for further testing. I am a relatively new physician and am still learning and figuring this out for myself. Definitely check out Dr. Leana Wen’s book, When Doctor’s Don’t Listen, which goes further into this issue.

    Also, I think another issue related to this that we do not talk much about is communication between physicians. Due to our current medical/payment system, there is little to no time for specialists and primary care docs to communicate about patients’ conditions and move care forward in a safe way. Often times, physicians end up communicating through the patient which risks greater miscommunication and misunderstandings.

  2. David Augsburger quote: “Being listened to is so close to being loved that most people can’t tell the difference.” Validation is healing for both the patient receiving it and the doctor who offers it. This Golden Girls clip on YouTube nails how a patient feels when a doctor doesn’t listen and/or help:

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