According to the New York Times, patients who communicate well with their doctors are healthier. Studies show that people who feel they have a good relationship with their doctor have reduced levels of pain, improved emotional and physical health, reduced stress and anxiety, and do a better job of following their prescribed treatments.
On the flip side, poor communication between doctor and patient is linked to misdiagnosed illnesses, unnecessary tests, and the failure of patients to follow instructions. But here’s the catch - when it comes to good communication, we aren’t very good at it! And neither are our doctors.
- Doctors interrupt their patients 23 seconds after asking, “So, what brings you here today?”
- Only one in six patients understands what the doctor tells them.
- And half the patients leave a doctor’s office confused about the doctor’s instructions.
But don’t just blame the doctor. Communication is a two-way street. Your doctor won’t know you don’t understand if you don’t tell them. So ask questions. Women are actually better at this than we guys are. During a typical 15 minute visit, a woman will ask an average of six questions. Guys? ZERO. None. Nada.
But doctors are under a lot of time constraints so use your time in the waiting room to think through what you’re going to say, and what questions you have. Be brief and factual. If you’re interrupted 23 seconds into it, get back on track. You’ll be doing yourself, and your doctor, a big favor.