Monday, February 21, 2011

Healthcare Communication a Two-Way Street

We all want our physicians and healthcare support staff to communicate with us -- about diagnoses, prescription side effects, next steps... But sometimes, as patients, we forget that communication works both ways.

A friend of mine was taken to the Fauquier Hospital Emergency Department the other day. She was in considerable pain and thought she might be having a heart attack. Upon arrival, she was whisked immediately to a treatment room and given all the appropriate tests. Early on, when relating her prescription history, she told the folks working the tests that she was taking beta blockers. One of the technicians confided that she was glad to know about the beta blockers because those drugs will affect tests on the heart.

A little later, while the ED physician was reviewing her test results, he suddenly looked at her with narrowed eyes. "Why are you sitting bolt upright like that? Are you in pain?"

In fact, she was. Like so many of us, she was trying to be brave. She was impressed that the doctor noticed her discomfort and she realized that the pain was not a sign of weakness. The change in pain level was information the doctor needed to assess her situation and make her feel better.

I committed the same mistake last week when I visited a physician about shoulder pain. When he performed the examination, I tried to tough it out as the shoulder was manipulated. As with the ED physician, my doctor read my face and saw the pain etched there. He used that information to diagnose my problem and recommend treatment.

I've leaned my lesson though. Next time I won't make it so hard on my doctor. I hope he is ready for my new brand of information-sharing; it might get loud.

1 comment:

Laura (Collins) Lyster-Mensh said...

So wise. Advice we all need to take!