How Important Is Patient Communication?

August 15, 2018

Physicians are often frustrated when patients don't listen to them, but they may not realize the table is often turned. During consultations, clinicians rarely ask patients to explain the reasons for their visit, according to a recent study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

The University of Florida investigation found that the patient's agenda was addressed just 36% of the time, and during about 70% of patient visits, it took a mere 11 seconds on average for the physician to interrupt. Specialists were the worst listeners. Even when soliciting the reason for the visit, they still managed to cut off the explanation 80% of the time. Patients who managed to share their concerns did so within a median of 6 seconds.

Patient-centered decision-making is a key feature of quality healthcare. In particular, identifying and understanding the patient's agenda for the visit both improves and facilitates patient-clinician communication. In fact, 17 years ago, the Institute of Medicine — now the National Academy of Medicine — identified patient-centeredness as one of six healthcare quality goals. Since then, the importance of a patient's experience has been embedded into the rubric of quality measurements for healthcare facilities.

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