What is the Value of Physician Communication?

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.