Posts Tagged ‘communication’

Referral Communication

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

Any project to improve patient care will have to pay attention to how doctors communicate with each other. When I shadowed primary care physicians, I was struck by how few patients could recall exactly what medications they were taking. Since there were discrepancies between the patients’ memory and the electronic medical record, the doctor had to spend considerable time updating the list and tweaking the prescriptions.

We may not be able to train patients to keep better track of their medications, but doctors can certainly control how they control vital information to each other. A new study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine analyzes data from the Health Tracking Physician Survey to test just that. They found that we still have room for improvement.

Over 63 percent of primary care physicians reported that they “always” or “most of the time” sent background information and the reason for the consultation to the specialist when they referred a patient. Specialists, on the other hand, say that only 34 percent of the time do they receive such information. The discrepancy works in the other direction, too. 80 percent of specialists say they “always” or “most of the time” alert primary care physicians of the results of the consultation, but only 62% of PCPs report receiving them.

Electronic record systems should make it easy for doctors to communicate with each other. Even where the technology is available, doctors should remember to use it.

Doctor-Patient Interactions

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

On the second day of Dan O’Connell’s visit, he addressed a lunchtime group of clinicians on how to communicate more effectively with patients. Although I am not a medical doctor, I took away some key points that can make interactions with any client go more smoothly.

He emphasized that the doctor and staff must work as a team. The worst thing a doctor can say upon meeting a patient is, “What brings you in today?” The patient has already shared his or her concerns with the medical assistant and usually the referring physician, so an opening statement like that signals that the group is not working together.

A little preparation–even a five minute huddle with staff before clinic–can go a long way in smoothing out the day. This is advice that translates to many settings.

Difficult Conversations

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

This week we’ve been hosting Dr. Dan O’Connell, a clinical psychologist and expert in health care communication. At a lunchtime seminar, he addressed how to talk to disruptive colleagues.

One of the take away points for me was that the person is not the problem, the problem is the problem. Rather than telling someone, “You are incompetent.” It is more helpful to say, “I noticed that the patients were not put in rooms today. Did you notice that too?” This approach enlists the person in crafting a solution. Criticism only puts the other person in a defensive posture.