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Good Communication with the Good Doctor

An educated consumer is the best customer.

By Robert W Lash MDJune 8, 2007 5:00 AM


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Communicationis the foundation of all good relationships. Sometimes I get a sweet note inmy lunch, other times I find a sticky note, “viola lesson at 6”, and sometimes whenI pass the chair of internal medicine in the hospital he says, “Let’s talk thisafternoon in my office.” Clearly some forms of communication are more directthan others, and others are more desirable.

Likewise,the doctor/patient relationship is also built on the cornerstone ofcommunication. I love it when patients bring a list of questions to theiroffice visit. Those questions give us a chance to talk about issues importantto the patient, keep the extraneous chatter about weather to a minimum, and Ican send them on their way with peace of mind. The list of questions makes us ateam and allows us to work together. If you’ve read an article related to yourhealth, and you’re wondering what I think about it, by all means, bring it withyou. Warning: Not all doctors like this, so proceed with caution.

Now, thereare some patients who skip the list of questions and like to get right to it. Lastmonth I had a patient who started our office visit with, “Hey doc, look at this!”and dropped his pants to show me a festering imperfection which needed someantibiotics. Medical school teaches us a lot of things, but covering oursurprise when patients suddenly flash their privates is not one of them—that’swhy we always knock on the door before entering the exam room. Doctors arepeople too; a little warm-up goes a long way.

YesterdayI was reminded that listening is a really important component of greatcommunications. I had an adult patient come to her appointment with her mom, whichI have to say is fairly atypical. During the actual exam, the mom left the examroom and I asked the patient if there was a reason why she brought her momalong. She said, “We have a rule in our family that no one ever goes to thedoctor alone, that way there’s two sets of ears listening to what the doctorsays.” Simple and Smart.

Robert W. Lash, M.D. is anassociate professor of internal medicine at the University of MichiganMedical School. His clinical interests include thyroid disease,diabetes, endocrine disorders in pregnancy, osteoporosis and metabolicbone disease, and medical education. A member of the LLuminari team ofexperts, a board certified internist and endocrinologist, Dr. Lash hasan active clinical practice and is a hospitalist at the University ofMichigan.

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