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Doctor, Please Pull Up a Chair or a Keyboard?

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Yesterday, our Health Headlines included a study mentioned in the Washington Post that revealed that we are more comfortable and satisfied with our communications with our clinicians when they sit down to talk with us.  This study surveyed patients while in a hospital but surely this is true in office visit settings too.

I can distinctly remember just a few meetings with different doctors when AFTER I put my clothes back on we sat across from each other in the office and discussed my diagnosis, treatment plans or likely next steps. The most memorable of these meetings was a few days following two suspicious cancer screening tests. We met for an hour'I clearly remember the books on the wall behind him and the color of his shirt. What a difference it made to have that private, safe space and those eye-level conversations. I felt both reassured and supported by a doctor who could both advise me and be a partner in my health choices and actions.

In the March 25th issue of The New England Journal of Medicine, Pamela Hartzband and Jerome Groopman's essay, Untangling the Web Patients, Doctors, and the Internet  shared their perspectives on the role of the clinician-patient relationship in our Dr. Google age:  We should pay close attention to any unintentional fraying of the physician'patient bond. ''Although the Internet is reshaping the content of the conversation between doctor and patient, we believe the core relationship should not change. And Lisa Gaultieri, writing in The Health Care Blog about EHR Etiquette eloquently describes how the presence of a computer in a clinical visit can hinder or enhance the quality of the interaction and the experience of both the patient and the provider.

To my surprise, I experienced an echo of the intimacy and bond of those eye-level encounters when my doctor sent me an e-mail message about having received my medical records and another that the office was closed and how I could reach them during Washington's recent Snowpocalypse.  These simple staying-in-touch messages have given me a new confidence that I can speak up more about my questions and concerns and that my doctor will both listen to and learn from me. My doctor seems more familiar and approachable now.

I wonder if this will actually hold true when we meet again in-person later this month and when times come down the road that big decisions have to be made. Will my doctor really be willing to routinely pull up a chair to talk to me in-person or at a keyboard?

More Blog Posts by Dorothy Jeffress

author bio

Dorothy Jeffress, MBA, MSW, MA, (djeffress@cfah.org) executive director, joined CFAH in March 2008. Prior positions include vice president, Center for Information Therapy, 2005-2008, where she assisted with the IxAction Alliance membership program, the annual Ix Conference and finance/administration for the IxCenter; and as the assistant vice president of Value Based Purchasing for the National Business Coalition on Health (NBCH) from 2003 to 2005, where she directed the eValue8 Request for Information (RFI) program. She also worked with NCQA from 1999 to 2002 where she was the director of constituent relations and a senior health care analyst in HEDIS performance measure development. She has also worked for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health as the director of a CDC/state-funded women's health promotion and chronic disease prevention program. She has managed a TPA for self-funded employee benefit programs and also been a benefit manager for a mid-sized employer. Dorothy has an MBA from Clemson University and an MSW in clinical social work and an MA in theology from Boston College.


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Health Information Technology   Dorothy Jeffress   Communicate with your Doctors   Inside Healthcare  


Comments on this post
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StarLawrence says
April 12, 2010 at 10:59 AM

I had an eye doctor who would make people wait 3-4 hours (they even gave diabetics crackers in the waiting room), then my interaction with him, if you could call it that, was listening to him dictate a letter to my other eye doctor into voice software. Apparently, the software could not spell the terms he used because he would peer into the screen and push TRY AGAIN over and over. That was my consultation--whatever I could glean from that.

Dudley Schindeldecke says
April 25, 2010 at 6:54 PM

Thank you for your aid!

Sherman Wackenheim says
April 26, 2010 at 2:30 AM

Thank you for your help!