Category Archives: physician-patient communication

a wood pathway through trees in a park

5 spring health risks you need to prepare for now

Remember it’s Spring forward to Daylight Savings Time

Most of the United States will change to Daylight Savings Time on Sunday March 11, 2018.

So you will either be going to bed an hour later than usual, or awakening an hour earlier.

Either way, your body will tell the difference until your sleep cycle adjusts; I know mine always does.  WebMD offers these tips to make the change easier.

If getting a good night’s sleep is a persistent problem for you, check out the information I shared in this post.

Expert advice to sleep well every night

We welcome the  first day of Spring, March 20,  in the northern hemisphere, with the occurrence of the vernal equinox.

This link to The Weather Channel explains what the vernal equinox means.

graphic of the earth explaining equinox and solstice

original source not known

With more hours of sunlight and warmer weather you may spend more time outdoors.While that may mean greater fitness from the physical activity, you will be at risk of several outdoor injuries. Be proactive and prevent warm weather ailments with these tips.

Protect yourself against mosquitoes and other insects.

5 insect repellents to keep you safe this summer

Protect your skin with  sunscreen while you’re outside.

(These are affiliate links placed here for your convenience. This blog can earn a commission from sales from these links. This does not imply endorsement of these products.)

Protecting your feet.

Whether walking, jogging,  gardening, or sports, our feet can take a beating from outdoor activity.

You probably don’t worry much about blisters- until you get one. Then the pain can inhibit walking, or even  wearing a shoe.

At worst, blisters can become chronic wounds, get infected, and threaten limbs in susceptible persons like those with diabetes or poor blood flow.

 

I wear Skechers shoes for walking.

Ways to prevent blisters include-

  • Proper fitting shoes, not too tight or too loose
  • Breaking shoes in before activity likely to cause a blister, like running, dancing, long walks, sports
  • Wearing absorbent cushioned socks, perhaps 2 pair together
  • Applying protective padding over pressure points on the feet. Even plain paper tape can accomplish this, according to this study published in the New York Times.

What to do about seasonal allergies

Often called “hay fever”, allergic rhinitis doesn’t cause a fever but it can make us miserable with its characteristic symptoms-

  • runny nose, sneezing, congestion

    diagram of the nose and sinuses

    Allergies commonly affect the nose, throat, sinuses, ears, and eyes.

  • scratchy, itchy, or tickly throat
  • cough
  • ear itching and pressure
  • watery, itchy, red eyes

 

 

 

 

Even those  people who have these symptoms year round may have seasonal exacerbations, usually spring and fall.

 

Wearing a filter mask while outdoors may help minimize allergy symptoms.

 

 

 

Here is information about allergy management from the American College of Allergy to discuss with your doctor.

Seasonal Allergies

 5 spring health risks you need to prepare for now- watercresswords.com

 

 

I appreciate your sharing  this post on your social media pages.

And please follow Watercress Words for more information and inspiration to help you explore the HEART of HEALTH.

Thank you for  viewing  the advertisements and using the affiliate links  that fund this blog; with your  help, we can grow, reach more people, and support worthy causes that bring health and wholeness to people around the world.

 

                                                         warmest regards, Dr. Aletha 

stethoscope with a heart

exploring the HEART of health

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person holding the Holy Bible

How to face your health challenges with hope

Featuring Weekend Words from

James chapter 5, verses 2-5, Common English Bible

My brothers and sisters, think of the various tests you encounter as occasions for joy. After all, you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance.

Let this endurance complete its work so that you may be fully mature, complete, and lacking in nothing.

But anyone who needs wisdom should ask God, whose very nature is to give to everyone without a second thought, without keeping score.

Wisdom will certainly be given to those who ask.

Be passionately in love with understanding. St. Augustine

St. Augustine, early North African Christian theologian and philosopher graphic from Lightstock.com, affiliate link

 

 

 

 

 

Proverbs chapter 2, verses 2-10, Common English Bible 

Turn your ear toward wisdom,
    and stretch your mind toward understanding.
Call out for insight,
    and cry aloud for understanding.
 Seek it like silver;
    search for it like hidden treasure.
Then you will understand the fear of the Lord,
    and discover the knowledge of God.
The Lord gives wisdom;
    from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.

 Wisdom will enter your mind,
    and knowledge will fill you with delight.

 

Thanks to Sarah Forgrave for permission to use this excerpt from

Prayers for Hope and Healing

Seeking God’s Strength as You Face Health Challenges

by Sarah Forgrave

Prayers for Hope and Healing by Sarah Forgrave

Prayers for Hope and Healing by Sarah Forgrave

 

“When you’re confused by medical jargon”

“Medical staff talk to you, but they might as well be speaking a foreign language. Whether they’re explaining your condition or giving instructions for the next steps of your care, their words go into your ears like a secret message you can’t decode. You know they’re talking about your body, but the disconnect to your brain leaves you helpless and frustrated.

a prayer-

I’m so thankful for the doctors and medical staff  You’ve charged with my care. Even though I don’t always understand their words, it’s comforting to know You’ve given them the knowledge they need to treat my condition. ”

 

 

Learn how to understand your doctor and make yourself understood with these previous posts-

Do you know the best questions to ask about your healthcare?

“You may think your doctor knows exactly what you mean, but sometimes we are left trying to read between the lines of what you tell us.  We doctors need to understand our patients’ expectations, concerns and obstacles.”

How to talk to your doctor to improve your medical care

“You may think doctors make a diagnosis based on lab tests or xrays. But much of the time, those tests only confirm what we already suspect  based on your symptoms.

If we misunderstand what you describe, or fail to get complete information we may  start testing for something far removed from what is wrong with you.”

And have a cup of tea with me.


 Thank you for considering  affiliate links that support this blog.

Weekend Words-

sharing words of faith, hope, and love

(1Corinthians 13:13)

The word "Read" written in black paint on a colorful watercolor washed background.

What Patients Say, What Doctors Hear- a book review

What Patients Say, What Doctors Hear

by Danielle Ofri, M.D. , an associate professor of medicine at the New York University School of Medicine and staff physician at New York’s Bellevue Hospital .  The book is published by Beacon Press

“What patients say and what doctors hear can be two very dissimilar things. The reverse is also quite true: what doctors say and what patients hear can be radically different.”

“For all of the sophisticated diagnostic tools of modern medicine, the conversation between doctor and patient remains the primary diagnostic tool. Even in fields that are visual (dermatology) or procedural(surgery), the patient’s verbal description of the problem and the doctor’s questions about it are critical to an accurate diagnosis.”

What Patients Say, What Doctors Hear- a book cover

written by Danielle Ofri, M.D.

I am so convinced of the truth of these two statements, that I have written several blog posts about physician-patient communication. So when I learned of a book that delves into this subject in detail, I knew I needed to read it; I was not disappointed.

As a physician, this was not an easy book to read; Dr. Ofri does not hesitate to tell us physicians what we need to do better in our communication with our patients.

But she also makes it plain to patients that you have a role and a vested stake in communicating your concerns, questions, and even grievances to the physicians who care for you; that without such information, your physicians cannot provide optimal diagnosis and treatment for you.

doctor talking to a woman

photo compliments American Academy of Family Physicians

Dr. Ofri bases her conclusions on her own encounters with patients over 20+ years of practice, interviews with other doctors and patients, and published research on communication. In her book she explains

  • How the uniqueness and complexity of the physician-patient relationship impacts their communication
  • Why patients’ less satisfactory encounters with the medical system are often due to poor communication, rather than lack of caring and competence, but can lead to lawsuits
  • Why patients’ unfamiliarity of medical terms can hinder communication , and how differences in use of words between doctors and patients, and even between doctors can lead to misunderstanding

For example, Dr. Ofri relates an incident when she was still a medical student working in the hospital and came across the term “expired” to refer to a patient who had died. She had never heard the word used this way. Then years later, when she was an attending physician, she was confused when an intern from a southern state reported to her that a patient had passed during the previous night. Passed what?, she thought. In some areas of our country,  “passed” is commonly used to mean someone has died, but Dr. Ofri had never heard this.

woman-sitting-in-front-of-a-tree-in-a-cemetery-grieving

photo from Lightstock.com, affiliate link

Dr. Ofri discusses the placebo effect of medicines and treatments, and how expectations affect response to treatment. (The placebo effect means responding to  a treatment that contains no active medical substance.  Interestingly, placebo treatments “work”.)

She details the many reasons patients have difficulty adhering to doctors’ recommended treatment plans, such as cost, inconvenience, distance, and other factors unrelated to not understanding the seriousness of their condition, as one might suppose.

I was intrigued by the story of a hospital in The Netherlands which hired a woman to be the “Chief Listening Officer.” Her only duty was to listen to patients talk about their complaints or grievances  about their care, not to fix or solve problems, but just to listen. And it was successful; once patients felt they had been heard, they had no desire to pursue legal action and felt more satisfied with their care.

She also relates a program called Sorry Works!, a way to handle medical errors with mediation rather than lawsuits, also a successful program.

Dr. Aletha talking to a mother and her son

Talking to a patient through an interpreter makes communication extra challenging. (photo from a volunteer medical trip to Ecuador)

What Patients Say, What Doctors Hear  helps  patients understand the complexity of what physicians do in our encounters with patients and how that impacts our subsequent decision making and treatment decisions.

This book illustrates there are multiple detailed steps between

  • A patient’s problem and the best solution
  • The patient’s and family’s questions and the correct answers
  • The final (or sometimes current) diagnosis and the definitive,  best available ,or least toxic treatment.

“The biggest take-home message…is that both doctors and patients need to give communication its just due. Rather than ..the utilitarian humdrum of a visit, the conversation should be viewed as the single most important tool of medical care…a highly sophisticated technology.

The mere act of both parties taking this conversation more seriously will enhance communication and improve medical care. …effective communication needn’t take a long time, it just needs full and intense focus…and can yield an abundance of information.”

In this previous blog post I offer suggestions on physician-patient communication based on my years in practice:

Do you know the best questions to ask about your healthcare?

You know it’s important to tell us details of your symptoms, medical history, family history, habits, and other medical facts.   But besides medical information about you , we need to know

Your expectations about your care,

Your concerns about your care,

Your obstacles to getting care,

Do you know the best questions to ask about your healthcare?

I blog about healthcare communication because you need to understand your doctor better and  we doctors need to understand our patients’ expectations, concerns and obstacles.

Physicians should  use clear understandable plain language with patients. Patients should also be clear and specific when they talk to their doctor.

You may think your doctor knows exactly what you mean, but sometimes we are left trying to read between the lines of what you tell us.

Dr. Aletha talking to a mother and her son

Talking to a patient through an interpreter makes communication extra challenging.

You know it’s important to tell us details of your symptoms, medical history, family history, habits, and other medical facts.   But besides medical information about you , we need to know

Your expectations about your care,

Your concerns about your care,

Your obstacles to getting care,

You may wonder, won’t or shouldn’t my doctor ask me theses questions? Sure, we can ask and probably will, but by volunteering it , you start dialogue that gets you and your doctor communicating effectively much faster. Your doctor knows about disease, but you as the patient know the experience of the illness much better. 

Let me illustrate by giving you some examples. These are all statements patients say  to me in my daily practice. The original statements aren’t bad or wrong, but by rephrasing to add some additional detail they  give your doctor valuable information that will help provide you the best care possible.

The underlined words can be substituted for others listed in parentheses.  The exact words aren’t as important as the  message they convey. 

Hello doctor, I’m here because I want my thyroid checked.

(substitute heart, lungs, cholesterol, blood sugar, kidneys, etc.)

Instead try-

Hello doctor, I’m tired a lot, and wondered if it might be a thyroid problem or something else. What testing would help us find out what’s wrong with me?

It’s better not to limit your doctor to checking just one thing, when there are many possible explanations for your symptoms. You expect a thyroid check, but you’re open to other possibilities.

tubes used to collect blood samples in a lab

 

Doctor, I feel terrible and think I have  pneumonia. The last time I felt like this the doctor said it was pneumonia, so it must be that again.

( sub kidney infection, strep throat, sinus infection)

But if you say this

Doctor, I feel so sick. This illness is similar to when I was diagnosed with pneumonia and I’m afraid I have it again. I am concerned it’s pneumonia again so  I’m here to find out what is wrong, as I realize it may be something else.

You’ve told the doctor your concern about pneumonia but you’re not trying to diagnose yourself.

 

 

I have a family history of cancer so I want to have a mammogram.

(sub any other cancer, heart disease, stroke and other tests)

That’s good, but this is better.

Doctor, I’m concerned about breast cancer as it runs in my family. My grandmother was diagnosed at age 45 and now my sister has been, and she is 40. Do I need a mammogram or any other testing now?

Knowing who in your family had a disease and at what ages helps the doctor make an accurate recommendation. It also tells your doctor this may be an emotional issue  (concern)  for you.

Top 10 cancers in the U.S.

 

 

I need an antibiotic (anti-inflammatory, muscle relaxer, steroid, shot )  for this; I know because my previous doctor always gave me one for this.

Please try this instead:

When I had this before my doctor prescribed an antibiotic; I wonder if that would be appropriate this time?

This tells the doctor your expectation, but also that  you are open to different  advice/recommendation. (and avoid getting a medication you don’t need.) 

6 smart facts about antibiotic use

 

 

 

Will my insurance pay for this? How much will this cost me? Is this an expensive drug?

Patients may expect us to know about insurance and cost, but often we don’t. We can work with you on financial issues if we know more about your obstacle. Try asking-

I need to find out if this is covered by my insurance. Can someone in your office look that up, or help me find out?

I’ve had a lot of medical bills this year that have stretched my budget. I will need to find out what my out of pocket cost will be before scheduling this test. Can your office help me with that?

If there is a generic version of this drug that will work just as well, I would like it, to minimize my out of pocket cost. If not, is there another alternative?

 

 

Is this drug safe? (effective, good, best, dangerous, harmful)  

Few things are 100% safe. But what we can discuss with you is –

What are the risks and side effects of this drug? Is the benefit I get from the drug worth the risks? Are there alternatives that would be effective and less risky?

We always should be concerned about drug use, and safety isn’t the only issue. Don’t hesitate to ask questions.

medication capsules

 

 

 

 

 

How long will I be off work? When can I go back to work?

Here’s what your doctor needs to know –

My job requires me to stand and walk for several hours?

(sit and type; talk on the telephone; drive long distances in my car)

And here’s what you need to ask:

How soon should I expect my stamina to return so I can work part time? Full time?

When can I safely work without interfering with my recovery?

What can I do to hasten my recovery so I can return to work sooner?

Both  you and your employer, need to know when it is safe to return to work.  We have to balance health concerns with your financial concerns and what is expected and allowed by your employer and the law. 

If you are clear  with your concerns and obstacles  and flexible in your expectations it will be easier for your doctor to make the right decision.

 

 

These are just a few examples. I’m sure you can think of others.

Whenever you have a need to consult a physician, think ahead of what your

expectations, concerns and obstacles are before you make the visit so you’ll  be

prepared to share .

Here are  more tips on talking with your doctor-

How to talk to your doctor to improve your medical care

How to tell your doctor what’s wrong with you.

I invite you to follow this blog as we explore the HEART of health together.

 

Dr. Danielle Ofri’s book  What Patients Say, What Doctors Hear,

details the reasons doctors and patients don’t communicate well

and offers ways to improve our interaction.

What Patients Say, What Doctors Hear by Danielle Ofri, MD

written by Danielle Ofri, M.D.

(this is an affiliate link)

How to talk to your doctor to improve your medical care

For you to receive correct and effective medical treatment , your doctors need the right medical information.

I’ve written about doctor-patient communication before, because  it’s the most important part of the encounter. No amount of lab tests, scans,or  invasive procedures substitutes for the information we get from patients.

You may think doctors make a diagnosis based on lab tests or xrays. But much of the time, those tests only confirm what we already suspect  based on your symptoms. If we misunderstand what you describe, or fail to get complete information we may  start testing for something far removed from what is wrong with you.

 

Wrong information > wrong working diagnosis>wrong testing>wrong final diagnosis  

taking blood pressure

 

 

 

Doctors are learning how to communicate better with patients. One key is using “plain language” rather than medical jargon. However, even plain language can be misunderstood. And with a plethora of medical information online patients know and use medical terms too. Communication between doctors and patients may never be perfect, but we can do better.

 

2 medical people talking to a patient

a patient encounter in a rural clinic in Panama

 

 

 

Here are some tips on talking to your doctor .

There are always exceptions. Doctors have different communication styles, and may interact differently than what I’m suggesting here. These are general guidelines.

 

 

GET TO THE POINT

Be clear and specific about why you are there; don’t expect your doctor to uncover a hidden objective.

Sometimes we can read between the lines and suspect you didn’t come because of a mole that hasn’t changed in 10 years. So if you’re there because you’ve been having chest pain and you’re worried it’s your heart, say so . Then we have time to give your concern the time it deserves .

GIVE DETAIL

All coughs are not created equal. Knowing  your  cough started yesterday  rather than  6 months  ago helps me determine the more likely cause.

 Tell your doctor how long, how often, how severe, what helps, what worsens, your symptoms; that helps to narrow the possible causes. 

This post will explain

How to tell your doctor what’s wrong with you. 

 

STAY ON POINT

Finish talking about your cough before starting to talk about the pain in your back.

A string of symptoms without detail is confusing and doesn’t give me enough information  to evaluate any of them.

BE HONEST ABOUT YOUR MEDICAL HISTORY AND LIFESTYLE

Sometimes patients leave out important information due to forgetting, thinking it’s not important, embarrassment, or fear. But that may be the very piece of data I need to pinpoint what’s wrong.

So tell the doctor

  • If you can’t do something you’re asked  to do,
  • if you can’t afford the medication,
  • if your insurance doesn’t cover something,
  • if you are afraid to go for the test 
  • if you are seeing other doctors for anything,
  • how much you smoke,drink, or other habits

 

TALK BACK

Ask questions if you don’t understand something.

If you don’t, I may assume you do understand. Ask me to review what I  told you. Put it in your own words and ask me if that’s what I meant.

BE SPECIFIC

Patients may use words or terms they assume I understand, but may mean something different to us.

“Heart attack” often means something different to patients than to doctors.

( Patients may use it to refer to any sudden heart problem, while doctors understand it to mean a specific event called a myocardial infarction.)

diagram of the human heart

 

 

In general, avoid using diagnostic terms. Instead of saying, “I have a sinus infection.”, we need to hear “My nose is stuffed up, I’m sneezing, and my throat is scratchy.”

 

Some words your doctor may ask you to clarify-

 

  • Dizzy- do you mean off balance or spinning?
  • Tired- do you mean fatigued or sleepy?
  • Difficulty focusing – do you mean vision focus or mental focus?
  • Weak- do you lack  energy or lack strength?
  • “I’ve tried everything.”- Tell me what “everything” is.

 

If you have  received a specific diagnosis from a doctor, it’s helpful for us to know that; we may want to confirm it with appropriate questions, exam, review of your records, and possibly additional testing.

 

Read about Understanding medical terms and asking questions 

 

And I share medical terms and their meanings at  Watercress Words on Facebook

 

 

TELL ME WHAT WENT WRONG

I know this one is tricky; you don’t want to offend me, maybe you’re afraid you won’t get good care if you complain. But I can’t fix problems if I don’t know about them.

If my care or care from my staff is unsatisfactory, please tell me. If you offer constructive criticism about specific problems, we can work together to solve them. And if it’s not something I can or will change, I will explain. 

 

Learn to handle conflict here Why patients sue their doctors 

 

 

doctor holding a patient's hand

Courtesy and kindness should be part of every medical encounter.

 

 

Talking to your doctor should be comfortable and therapeutic. Remember

It’s confidential,

It’s all about you,

It’s not a surprise to your doctor- we’ve heard just about everything before

 

 

Over the Moon Link Party- featured Blogger

This post was featured at Over the Moon Link Party

 

a medical person holding a stethoscope

Why patients sue their doctors

 

 

“6 reasons to sue your doctor and how not to”

was the original title of a series of posts I wrote soon after starting this blog. Later the posts were called

 “Stopping medical malpractice- how patients can help”

 

The main point of the series ,the relationship between patients and physicians, prompted me to start this blog. Too often doctors and patients become adversaries rather than partners, and this series addresses that.

You will find  links to all four articles in the series here, with a brief excerpt from each one. They have also been slightly revised and updated.

Part 1

In the March 2015 issue of Medical Economics, attorney Richard Baker wrote,  “Being sued for malpractice, especially for the first time, can be an unsettling and frustrating experience for a physician.”    And stressful and unsettling for a patient, or patient’s family .

A medical malpractice lawsuit follows an adverse medical outcome –

  • a missed or inaccurate diagnosis,
  • an ineffective or harmful treatment,
  • a surgery gone bad,
  • an outcome that left permanent harm or at worst, death.

Patients become  upset and often angry, and may assume that malpractice has occurred. They want to hold the doctor responsible , and want compensation for medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering.

I don’t understand all the legal aspects of medical liability. But an unsatisfactory outcome may not mean poor care ;  illness or injury can be so severe  that any treatment is ineffective.  Or  there were multiple possible treatment options so the physician  made a judgement call that proved less than ideal.

But  it may reflect some behavior on the part of the doctor, another healthcare professional, or even the patient that could have been avoided.

continued here

Dr. Aletha treating a child

 

 

 

Part 2

No matter how careful hiring policies are , incompetent, unscrupulous and dishonest employees get into the healthcare system undetected. This is  bad for any industry, but in healthcare is  dangerous and even deadly.

If you notice something out of line in a medical office or hospital, or if the care is not as expected, don’t hesitate to report it to someone in authority. You can do this anonymously, although the more specific information you provide, the more likely the situation can be corrected .Even if nothing proves to be wrong, it will  give them helpful feedback about their service.

continued here

Dr. Aletha examining an infant

 

 

 

Part 3

You can’t control  your doctor’s training, CME (continuing medical education), and certifications. But you have a right and responsibility to confirm that the doctor is qualified to perform the services offered. Doctors’ offices have diplomas, licenses, awards displayed on the walls for a reason-they want you to look at them.  Hospitals and other health care facilities confirm  that  the  physicians who work there have the appropriate credentials.

continued here

 

Dr. Aletha with a health worker in Central America

Here I am with a health worker at a rural clinic in Central America. We held a medical outreach with a volunteer team.

 

 

 

Conclusion

The best way for physicians and patients to work through their feelings about a bad outcome is to start out with a mutually respectful, cooperative relationship.

Just like any other relationship, there may be times of disagreement; but these can and should be resolved with each satisfied that their viewpoint has been listened to , understood, and respected

continued here  

 

Dr. Aletha talking to a mother and her son

 

(Photos are from volunteer medical trips to Mexico, Panama, Ecuador and VietNam )

 

 

Dr. Danielle Ofri , author of several books about practicing medicine and patient relationships, considers effective doctor-patient communication crucial to successful medical outcomes. I reviewed her book here

What Patients Say, What Doctors Hear- a book review

What Patients Say, What Doctors Hear by Danielle Ofri, MD- a book

 

 

3 keys to effective communication with your doctor, part 2

In part 1, we considered the importance of establishing a connection between doctors and patients before trying to communicate. The goal is to establish effective patient engagement. (if you haven’t read part 1, I suggest reading it now, this post will make more sense if you do)

Now we’re going to look at some practical aspects of exchanging information with doctors- remember, exchange means give something and receive something  in return. 

Doctors want to give patients the information they need and most of the time believe they have done so. We are surprised when patients come back and say we didn’t explain their problem and its treatment, or they didn’t understand what we told them about it. I think this happens for 2 reasons.

  • We doctors tell patients what we think is important, but it may not be what you the patient or family considers most important.
  • After patients hear part of what we say, they get saturated and don’t hear the rest, especially when it is emotionally charged.

 

That’s why it is so important for patients and families to ask questions; don’t just rely on what the doctors volunteer. What is important to them may not be what is most important to you. And the more specific questions you ask, the more detailed the information you receive will be.

The one question you should always ask a doctor at each visit is

“What is the most important problem today, and what is the next step in treating it?”

The most important problem that the doctor finds may not be the one you were admitted for or came to the office for. Or if you came with multiple problems, the most important may not be the one that seemed most urgent to you.

For example, you may go to an emergency facility for an injury that caused a large gash on your leg, one that needs stitches. This is an urgent problem that needs to be treated. But the doctor finds that you have high blood pressure that you are unaware of. High blood pressure can lead to heart failure and stroke  if left untreated. So the doctor is going to instruct you to see your primary care doctor to have this problem addressed. In terms of your long term health, the high blood pressure is your most important problem today.

 

It is important to control blood pressure

High blood pressure can cause a heart attack.

 

You will get more helpful information from your doctor if your questions are as specific as you can ask; always inquire as to how tests and procedures this will affect your treatment and recovery. Here are some examples-

  • What did the xray show and what does mean for my problem?
  • What was blood test result and will it change my treatment?
  • How will this procedure change my condition?
  • What needs to happen before he can move out of ICU?

 

Write important things down. Questions that you want to ask. Information that the doctors need. Answers to the questions. Refer to it each time you speak with the doctors.

 

When you or a loved one is in the hospital, your main concern is going home. When the time comes to be discharged, it is just as important to ask questions and understand the plan as during the illness. Too many times I have had patients return to my office after a hospital stay  unable to give me any information about their illness and care . Important information to know include

  • What problems were treated during this admission and how did they change?
  • What will we need to do at home to continue the recovery?
  • When do we need to see a doctor and which doctor do we see?
  • What medications will I need to be on when I go home?

 

Understanding your doctor– medical jargon may not be the problem

Doctors are being encouraged and taught to use “plain language” when talking to patients, meaning limiting the use of medical jargon. I agree that a string of highly technical terms of any kind makes communication harder. But I’m not sure that simply using plain words solves the problem either. Whatever terms you use to exchange information must be understood by both persons. And that is not always the case.

Here’s an example.

If a doctor says that you or a relative has had a Myocardial infarction , do you know that that means a Heart attack? 

But, do you know exactly what heart attack means? Probably not.

 

What causes heart disease?

A heart attack means the heart muscle is injured from too little oxygen reaching it, usually due to blockage in the arteries.

 

 

So,  if the doctor says “heart attack” without adding any additional information, you should ask

  • “I understand a heart attack to mean ________. Is this correct?”
  • “I do not understand what a heart attack is. Please explain.”

 

You can master medical  terminology . How many new things have you learned in the past 5 years? Each of those had a vocabulary and instructions that you learned and now use regularly. Think of your first smartphone, tablet, digital camera or even a coffee maker . You make the effort to learn what is important to you . 

Make an attempt to learn about your and your family’s medical issues; even if you don’t understand it completely your doctor will appreciate that you are trying.

In addition to  doctors you have nurses, pharmacists, dieticians, physical therapists, social workers who can answer questions. Ask for referrals to community resources.

There are helpful resources on the Internet so anyone with a laptop, tablet, or smartphone has access to medical information anywhere anytime.

Sometimes it is helpful to find accurate definitions of medical terms. Consider using the

Plain Language Dictionary from the University of Michigan

The dictionary is also offered as a free app on iTunes for iPhone and iPad .

Another source from the CDC is Plain Language Thesaurus for Health Communications-available to download as a  Word document or PDF versions

 

 

Understanding Medical Words: A Tutorial from the National Library of Medicine will help you understand where medical terms come from and how to interpret terms that are new to you. There’s even a test at the end to see how much you learned. Comment and let me know how you do.

 

rhinoceros

It’s easy to remember that “rhino” refers to the nose, as in rhinosinusitis.

Also on this topic, my previous  post How to tell your doctor what’s wrong with you