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The Lawrence Firm Blog

3 key stats about poor doctor communication

You’ve been feeling “off” for a while, but you have no idea what’s really wrong. You don’t think it’s serious, but you also want to be sure, so you go to the doctor. You try to explain what’s going on, but the doctor doesn’t listen, talks over you, and whisks you back out the door. You sit in your car in the parking lot, not feeling any better, just feeling like you took time out of your day – and paid your co-pay – for nothing.

Sound familiar? It should. This happens to people all of the time. Some experts say that poor communication is one of the main reasons doctors make mistakes, don’t catch serious issues, or make the wrong diagnosis. In some cases, it’s discovered that patients haven’t even discussed obvious solutions or symptoms because doctors never took the time to ask. Clearly, communication is not always a two-way street. Here are three startling statistics that shed some light on the problem:

1. 60 percent of patients misunderstand their doctors’ directions

In most cases, patients leave without knowing exactly what the doctor told them to do. When do you take that medication? How often? For how long? What exactly is it for? If you feel more confused when you leave the office than when you get there, something is wrong.

2. 2 out of 3 hospital patients don’t know their diagnosis when they leave

This is astounding. People go to the doctor or the hospital to find out what’s wrong and get treatment. Sixty-six percent of the time, they leave the hospital without knowing what the doctor decided. Your diagnosis is basic information. If your doctor can’t even communicate that properly, what else has been lost in the conversation?

3. Doctors interrupt in 18 seconds

Your doctor will probably sit you down and ask you what’s wrong when you get to the office. You better speak quickly. The average time patients have before the doctors jump in and cut them off is 18 seconds. If you didn’t say everything you had to say by then, you may not get the chance. Doctors are busy and visits are short, so they don’t actually feel like they have time to listen to you tell the story or list your symptoms.

As you can tell, these are serious issues in the medical community. Doctors have to listen to their patients if they’re going to have any hope of making the proper diagnosis. Even just getting it wrong at first and figuring it out later can cause delays that mean treatment takes longer, is more problematic, or even becomes impossible. These issues are inexcusable, and patients who believe that doctors are negligent need to know what rights they have to compensation.


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