Patient/Doctor Communications IMPORTANT

Communication Gap Spurs Patients to Switch Doctors

NEW YORK (Reuters Health)

Patients say they are most likely to switch from one doctor to another if they feel that their physician is not taking the time to listen, ask and answer questions, US researchers report.

According to a telephone survey of more than 2,000 patients, 78% of the patients reported at least one problem with their physician, including not having enough time to explain the reason for the visit, not getting understandable answers to questions or not being involved in treatment

decisions. An analysis revealed that each of the problems was independently linked with a lower perception of trust. Having five to six of these problems was associated with a lower overall physician rating, the investigators report in the January issue of the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

Three of the problems--not giving understandable answers, not taking enough time to answer questions, and not giving enough medical information--were independently related to considering changing doctors, report Dr. Nancy L. Keating from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, and colleagues.

The researchers conclude ``although most patients' experiences with their physicians are good, those that are not may have important consequences, including lower trust, lower ratings of physicians and greater likelihood of changing physicians.

``More physician training in communication skills, particularly focused on answering questions in ways that patients can understand, taking enough time to answer questions, providing adequate amounts of information and discussing differences in opinion about whether tests, procedures or referrals are needed, may strengthen patient-physician relationships.''

SOURCE: Journal of General Internal Medicine 2002;17.

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