Doctors need to improve their communication skills

Doctors who don’t listen and don’t communicate effectively may end up with no patients, say researchers at Harvard.

Investigators gathered data on physician-patient relationships from 2052 patients via a telephone survey in 1997. Of the patients surveyed, 78 per cent had at least one complaint in one of six categories: not allowing patients enough time to explain the reason for the visit; not providing understandable answers to questions; not taking enough time to answer questions; not asking about how family or living arrangements affect their health; not giving enough medical information; and not involving patients in decisions to the extent they wanted.

Analysis revealed that each problem led to erosion of the patient’s trust in the physician. The more complaints, the lower the level of trust and the greater the likelihood that the patient would seek another doctor.

The investigators suggest that more and better physician training in communication basics – such as answering questions in ways that patients can understand, and providing adequate information on tests, procedures and referrals – is needed (J Gen Intern Med, 2002; 17: 1-11).

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Written by What Doctors Don't Tell You

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