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Improve Communication With Your Doctor While In The Hospital

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If you are in hospital, don't expect your memory to do all the work for you. If you have a question, write it down, then, when the doctor does come for a visit, you won't forget to ask.

Under the best of circumstances, going into hospital as a patient is stressful, because it invokes great change in your life. You have changed your environment, your daily routine, and your eating habits. There are the intrusions of strangers poking and prodding, and wheeling you down the hall for tests.

An image of a doctors stethoscope

Coordinating the whole scene is your doctor, who usually sees you for just a few minutes each day. If this encounter is not handled well by both parties, it can lead to further anxiety and confusion. That’s why doctors need coaching in bedside manner.

Especially while you are in the hospital, the ability to communicate accurately with your doctor leads to better healing and potentially can even mean the difference between life and death. This has been confirmed in a series of studies performed and published over the past forty years. Good doctor-patient communication makes a difference not only in patient satisfaction but in patient outcomes including resolution of chronic headaches, changes in emotional states, lower blood sugar values in diabetics, improved blood pressure readings in hypertensives, and other important health indicators.

However, in a recent national survey of both doctors and hospitalized patients, effective communication remains elusive.

Only 48% of patients said they were always involved in decisions about their treatment, and 29% of patients didn't know who was in charge of their case while they were in the hospital.

Here's an action tip:

While your doctor's ability to communicate with you will vary by personality and training, you can benefit from a few tips as well. The following suggested questions were compiled by the Mayo Clinic, and serve as a good model for each patient.

  • What do my symptoms mean?
  • Do the medications have any side effects?
  • What is this test for?
  • What risks are involved in my treatment?
  • Do I have any options other than the treatment you've prescribed?
  • How do the benefits of the treatment compare with the risks?
  • What emotional reactions can I expect from my illness?
  • How long do I have to stay in the Hospital?
  • Do I have any limitations on my activity at home?
  • What should I call you about once I'm at home?

With these questions in hand, you should be well prepared to take some of the stress out of the hospital stay.

But what about the case where, despite your best attempts, you just can't establish that rapport with your doctor? Here are some resources for helping you decide what to do if you and your doctor don't communicate well.

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